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Child care grant may be eliminated

A budget proposal released Monday would eliminate the Student Child Care Block Grant (SCCBG); the only statewide student-parent child care assistance program in Oregon. The grant currently aids 433 student parents and has more than 700 more on a wait list.

Student-parents will lose their grants in April if the proposal is approved by the legislature. The program would not be continued until fall of 2003, according to the Oregon Student Association (OSA) Web site.

A $720 million deficit in the state budget, due to the economic recession, has necessitated a rebalance of the budget. The Department of Human Services recommended the two million dollar cut to the grant program that would eliminate it.

A second budget proposal is scheduled for next week, but Lola Lawson, coordinator of the Student & Parent Services program at Portland State said the future looks gloomy.

John Wykoss, legislative director of the OSA, explained that the grant is funded partly by the state general fund and partly by federal money through the Federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Oregon would still receive the federal money from the CCDBG, but it would not be allocated for the SSCBG.

In addition to the federal CCDBG Oregon has an option to transfer up to 30 percent of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fund into the CCDF.

Kristen Wallace, an intern in the ASPSU and employee of Helen Gordon Child Care Center, headed a lobby of Portland State Students in December. They went to Salem with the goal of stopping the cuts to the grant program.

Julie Suchanek-Ritchie, communications director of the Oregon Student Association (OSA), said, “The budget cuts higher education to the bare bones.” She added, “We agree that the budget is unworkable for higher education … but, eliminating the grant program means the difference between attending school or not for some students.”

Will Parnell, associate director of the Helen Gordon Child Care Center, said that 10 to 20 families that use the HGC will be impacted. The child care grant paid $300 of the $335 fee for full-time child care. Parnell said, “Some students struggled just to pay the $35 co-pay … the grant is the only way they are able to be in our program.” Parnell expects that many student parents will probably not be able to continue school if they do not receive a child care grant.

In fact, the average cost of child care in 2000-2001 for a toddler was nearly 50 percent greater than the cost of college tuition at Oregon’s major public universities, according to the Oregon Commission for Child Care.