Prosperity Watch Issue 30, No. 3: Shutdown forcing suspension of child care subsidies

Funding is running out for the programs that give low-income parents subsidies to afford the high costs of child care due to the federal government shutdown. Child care assistance supports family-economic security by helping low-income families stay attached to the labor force. This assistance also supports the healthy development of young children who consistently rank as the state’s poorest Tar Heels, yielding significant returns for the state in future years.

In August 2013, more than 72,000 children participated in North Carolina’s child care subsidy program. Participation rates that month varied county to county, ranging from 26 subsidies in Camden County to 6,445 subsidies in Mecklenburg County. Given their overall larger population sizes, the largest number of subsidies went to the state’s largest urban counties—Mecklenburg, Guilford, and Wake. While a sizeable number of families participated in child care subsidy programs, more than 36,000 families remained on the waiting list.

Funding for child care assistance is running out at different times for North Carolina’s 100 counties. Last Friday, 484 low-income children in Lee County were already turned away from their child care centers due to the lapse in funding. Not too far away, funding is slated to end on October 25, 2013 in Edgecombe County. And as these and other counties run out of funding, families, child care centers, and the parents’ employers will begin to feel the economic pain and pinch.

Vulnerable North Carolinians were already dealing with deep across-the-board sequestration cuts to social programs—including child care subsidies—in March. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more harm it causes to vulnerable children, families, and our economy. As such, The U.S. House should pass a spending plan for 2014, without conditions, that includes a responsible mix of new revenue and smart spending cuts that supports the economy and does not grow poverty.

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