WASHINGTON – Federal child care assistance for low-income families is reaching only a fraction of the eligible children in Maryland, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The report, released last week, said that only 8 percent of Maryland low- income children who were eligible for federal child care assistance in 1999 were getting it, well below the national average of 12 percent.
Those numbers are figured on the relatively generous federal eligibility criteria, which qualifies any family earning up to 85 percent of the median income in the state. But even under the much-stricter Maryland criteria of 46 percent of the state’s median income, only about 24 percent of eligible families are getting assistance they qualify for, federal officials said.
Maryland’s median annual income in 1999 was $49,000, officials said.
State human services officials declined comment on the figures, which were released Thursday as part of an HHS effort to push Congress to increase funding for the child care program.
“Working families still do not have adequate access to safe and affordable child care for their children — something that is crucial if they are to keep their jobs,” said HHS Secretary Donna Shalala in a prepared statement.
She urged Congress to approve the agency’s fiscal 2001 budget, which includes an $817 million increase in child care assistance funds.
The HHS report said that of the 259,000 Maryland children eligible for child care under the federal rate in 1999, only 22,070 children received federal child-care subsidies. Officials said about 91,000 children would have been eligible for aid under the state criteria in 1999, and that 68,930 potentially eligible children remained without any assistance.
Officials in the Maryland Department of Human Resources said they would have to study the federal report and did not expect to be able to respond until Monday.
One child-care provider, however, said the report is “an accurate reflection of the total child care negligence in the state.”
“Maryland does little for child care,” said Lenora Porzillo, director of Cloverleaf Child Development Center in Millersville. “Many of the children who are eligible for child care are often confined to a waitlist or not enrolled at all.
“The state takes absolutely no urgency when addressing the issue. They just don’t care,” she said.
Porzillo said that indifference stretches to more than just funding. She said that a hairdresser needs at least 1,500 hours of training to be qualified to practice in Maryland, but that a child-care worker “requires only a minimum of 90 hours of training. That’s a clear sign of the state’s interest.”