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March 22, 2014

In Our Opinion: Day care bill would be big help

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The Daily Star

---- — In families where both parents work, deciding what do to once a child is born can feel like a no-win situation. 

A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that women are the sole or primary source of income in 40 percent of American households. So the “choice” about going back to work doesn’t always feel like much of one. 

And New Yorkers are faced with some of the highest day care costs in the nation. A recent report by Child Care Aware estimated that a two-parent family in New York spends about 16.5 percent of its income on child care. For families that are already operating on a narrow budget, this can feel like a big chunk. 

For one Oneonta mother, paying for day care means having to work two, and sometimes three, jobs. 

“I’m a full-time teacher, but it’s not enough, so I work more jobs to make ends meet. It definitely affects our food budget. It affects everything. We have to cut back,” she told The Daily Star. 

Some people would say that’s her tough luck. 

“Do I feel bad that some people have to work more than one job to meet their needs? No. I don’t. ... It’s a personal choice to (have children) and the taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing day care,” one commenter wrote on The Daily Star’s website. 

But we don’t agree. Certainly it is a choice to have children. But do we really, as a society, want to tell people to choose between being childless and living below the poverty line? 

The one-income family is becoming the exception, not the rule. And our laws and tax codes need to change to accommodate this new reality.  

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has a proposal to do just that. Gillibrand wants to offer parents a variety of tax credits related to child-care expenses. Businesses would also receive tax incentives to provide on-site day care. And the bill would increase the amount of Child Care and Development Block Grant funding, which provides vouchers and certificates to help low-income families pay for child care. 

Should taxpayers be subsidizing day care? Consider the alternative. What do you say to the mother whose paycheck is already being gobbled up by rent, gas money and grocery bills? If she quits her job to stay home with her child, she now has no income. Who do you think will subsidize that? 

Even for those who are not at the bottom of the economic food chain, the high cost of day care presents a significant burden, which Gillibrand’s legislation would lessen. Then maybe families would actually have a real choice about what to do when a child is born.