Last Thursday, in the wake of the federal shutdown, the NC Department of Health and Human Services announced that county social service officials would resume processing TANF applications and that child care subsidy funds would be restored. But it’s still worth asking why North Carolina appeared to be the only state to fail to extend services with state dollars while expecting likely reimbursement from the federal government.
Prior to the end of the shutdown, Durham County was one of 34 counties that notified DHHS of plans to suspend or of already having suspended child care subsidies.
It’s also important to note that prior to the shutdown, prior to sequestration, and prior to the failure of Congress to reauthorize the TANF and CCDBG block grants that in large part fund state child care subsidies, over 34,000 children in North Carolina were on a waiting list for subsidized quality care.
Thousands of North Carolina families, a new NC Justice Center brief states, have been waiting for quality, affordable child care long before the federal shut down. Child care is the largest cost in many families’ monthly budget, the report notes, and quality child care comes at a cost that many families cannot afford. North Carolina’s subsidized child care program meets two urgent needs—fostering the healthy development of children and ensuring that low-income working parents have the supports they need to maintain and pursue employment and education.
A strong economy in North Carolina requires a road to self-sufficiency for all workers, and publicly-funded work supports are essential in building that road. Subsidized child care is a crucial investment in North Carolina’s future that should remain in the spotlight long after the news of the federal shutdown dwindles.