ANNAPOLIS – Delegate Curtis Anderson, D-Baltimore, will propose a bill Monday to provide health insurance coverage for licensed family child-care providers who participate in the state’s voucher system.
However, with a state budget deficit of $1.7 billion and Gov. Robert Ehrlich already cutting financing for child-care services 23 percent, securing funding for the bill is expected to be difficult.
“I’m very much worried about funding, but this is a fairly minor fiscal impact compared to the gains,” Anderson said.
Even advocates recognized the budget realities.
“It’s a wonderful idea, we fully endorse it, however, I don’t know where they’re going to find the money. It’s a very tight year,” said Clinton Macsherry, director of public policy for the Maryland Committee for Children.
Anderson’s bill would apply to child-care providers who use Maryland’s Purchase of Care program. This program provides vouchers to low-income parents so they can acquire child-care.
In fiscal year 2003, the Purchase of Care Program is budgeted for $134.6 million within the state’s Department of Human Resources budget. Of that, 78 percent comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund block grant, and the remainder from the state’s General Fund.
However, for next year the program’s budget was cut 18.9 percent.
Anderson could not estimate what his proposal would cost. He is hoping the majority of the money will come from the federal grant. However, “some input from state funds will be needed, probably a couple million from the Human Resources budget,” he said.
The American Home Daycare Association conducted a study that prompted Anderson’s legislation. The study found that poor benefits lead to a high turnover rate, which eventually results in low quality of care.
The theory is if child-care providers are properly compensated, the quality of care will increase, Anderson said.
Statewide, 64 percent of family child-care providers accept voucher payments. Baltimore has the highest percentage of providers who accept vouchers, 88.3 percent, and they are often a provider’s sole income, according to the study.
Because providers are treated like independent contractors, they do not receive health insurance.
The average yearly income for Maryland family day care providers in 2001 was $19,000, barely above the poverty line, leaving most providers unable to afford health coverage.
Just 44 percent of the day care association’s members possessed health insurance and 80 percent of them received it through a spouse.
“There’s no health care, there’s no sick leave . . . we’re not recognized like other professions,” said Tiffany Lucas, a licensed child-care provider for four years who has no health insurance.
“Health insurance is too expensive, I can’t afford $500 a month. If you get sick you just keep working, there’s no other way to pay your bills, said Leressa Matthews, who has been a licensed child-care provider for 16 years.
“I work until I can’t work anymore,” she added.
On average, child-care providers work 55 hours a week, receive an hourly wage of $6.64 and “earn even less than animal trainers,” the study reported. -30- CNS-1