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Child subsidies stay 

Children's advocates in Monroe County say they were pleasantly surprised to find that the state's 2013 to 2014 budget contains funding for a local child care subsidy program. The recently passed budget sets aside $1.1 million for the "facilitated enrollment" program, which provides subsidies to working parents earning between 165 percent and 275 percent of the federal poverty level.

That means a family of four, for example, would have to earn between $38,857 and $64,762 annually to qualify for the subsidy.

The program was first funded in the 2004 to 2005 state budget with money secured by former Assembly member Susan John. But the program was a trial, and local advocates thought the funding would end when John retired several years ago.

But the funding has received single-year extensions since, says Carolyn Lee-Davis, policy analyst at the Children's Agenda.

Without the assistance, child care costs can eat up more than one-third of a low-income family's budget, she says. The subsidies also help families afford higher-quality child care.

But the money will be accompanied by a change. Initially, the Children's Institute administered the local subsidy program, which it called Child Care Dollar$. But this year, the nonprofit Workforce Development Institute, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, takes over.

The Children's Institute and WDI approached some Rochester-area state legislators about the change, says Assembly member Harry Bronson. WDI administers facilitated enrollment programs in the Albany region and in Oneida County, and that experience is a benefit, Bronson says.

"There's a sense that it's going to work better for all concerned," says Ed Murphy, WDI's executive director.

WDI will conduct outreach about the program and collect applications, but it won't make the final decision about eligibility. The county's Department of Human Services reviews the applications and determines whether a family is eligible.

WDI staff estimate that the state's funding will cover 250 to 300 slots, which is similar to the number of slots funded through the Child Care Dollar$ program.

Day care subsidies are important because they allow parents to work. Without the assistance, child care costs can eat up more than one-third of a low-income family's budget. The subsidies also help families afford higher-quality child care.

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