Tahoe day-care providers celebrate Clinton’s announcement
Local child-care advocates had glowing remarks Wednesday after hearing President Clinton’s announcement that will help parents and providers alike.
Clinton pledged $21.3 billion over five years, increasing subsidies and giving tax breaks to parents and businesses who use child care. The extensive program, which addresses a topic on the front burner of America, still must be approved by Congress. Clinton has tried to gather bipartisan support over the last year. Republicans have remained stubborn amid welfare reform, of which one of the major components is child care.
“This has been what the first family has been promising all along,” said Tina Barna, executive director of Choice for Children, a resource and referral agency. “It will be very interesting to see what actual money will come to Tahoe.”
Clinton’s package includes a 25-percent tax credit for employers who run child-care facilities or reserve slots in existing centers; adding $7.5 billion to the state block grant program, doubling the amount of children eligible for child care assistance by 2003; and earmarking $960 million to expand an after-school program headed by the government’s Education Department.
Other significant components of the plan that are hailed by the field’s top proponents:
— Establishing a scholarship fund to provide $250 million for more training of up to 50,000 child-care providers. They would receive $1,500 each under the condition of working at least a year in the field.
— Eliminating state barriers to checking criminal backgrounds of child-care workers. States normally do not cross-reference. If a provider loses her license in one state, she can get licenses in another state.
— Legislation enforcing state health and safety standards in federal child-care centers.
“This once was a silent crisis but now the president is hearing all of the voices,” said Cathy Thomas, who operates the U.S. Forest Service Day Care Center. “I hope this announcement will bring more awareness at the local level and that child-care providers will be treated in the same regard as employees who receive benefits and incentives.”
Three billion dollars will also be spent on an early-learning fund, which will provide grants to communities and private-public partnerships for early childhood development.
Clinton was accompanied by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has advocated for major child-care reform and Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper. The president spoke to hundreds of dignitaries who have worked on the plan for over a year.
“We know that the government can’t raise or love a child but that is not what we’re supposed to do,” Clinton said. “What the government is supposed to do is to help create the conditions and give the people the tools that will enable them to raise and love children while successfuly participating in the American workplace.”
The news was received with optimism in Tahoe by child-care providers. Tahoe’s unique circumstances – operating 24 hours a day, severe weather that hampers travel and a transient population – impact families greatly.
“It does surprise me that Clinton committed that much money,” said Michelle Sower, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Community College Child Development Center. “I think the government should play a bigger role. Instead of putting money into reforming inmates in prison they should put more cash toward when a child’s life begins.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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