Parents ask lawmakers to hike child care aid

Program trimmed, waiting list long

SALEM, Ore. - Someone else is "minding the children" for a while Wednesday morning, so parents and child-care providers can visit their legislators in Salem.

They're asking for more state funding for the Employment-Related Day Care program that pays a portion of child-care costs for working, low-income parents. The program has been trimmed in recent years and could be serving 3,000 more families than it does now.

Renee Cripe of Roseburg, an in-home child-care provider, said it's hard to watch young parents struggle to keep their jobs and keep their toddlers in decent child care.

"We want these people to not have to be on welfare, to contribute to society," she said. "And then, it's the issue of us trying to also make a living by supporting these families."

The system serves about 8,500 of the 12,000 eligible families. One frustration for parents, said Richard Myers, policy director for Children First for Oregon, is that there's a very long waiting list to get ERDC benefits.

"Their job situation often is not quite as reliable," he said, "and one of the problems is, they may lose their job by the time they become eligible for Employment-Related Day Care. We want to get rid of the wait list and say, 'If you meet the criteria of the program, yes, you should get on this.'"

Ken Dale, executive director of the Peninsula Children's Center in Portland, acknowledges that child-care costs in Oregon are high, compared with other states, but adds that most providers do what they can to help families.

"We have a scholarship program and a financial aid program ourselves, but we can't 100 percent subsidize someone, because we ourselves are operating on a shoestring, to be able to pay our staff and to give medical benefits to our staff," he said.

The Oregon Business Association has added its voice to the call for more ERDC funding, saying that with quality child care, the workforce is stronger and more productive.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this report.

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