Maryland General Assembly approves bill mandating more spending on child care subsidies

Maryland lawmakers have agreed to boost spending on the state’s child care voucher program that advocates say has relegated low income families to the lowest-quality programs available.

The House of Delegates gave final approval Friday to legislation that would require the state to increase its spending on the Child Care Subsidy program for low-income families. The Senate bill, which the House approved Friday 115-20, now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

The additional money would increase the buying power of the vouchers so that families could use them to pay at roughly 60 percent of child care facilities in Maryland by 2023. The vouchers had lost much of their value in recent years, covering care at roughly one in 10 facilities in the state — among the lowest market values in the country.

Clinton Macsherry of the Maryland Family Network welcomed the bill’s passage. “It’s the best thing that’s happened for early childhood and child care in particular in more than a decade,” Macsherry said.

A spokeswoman for Hogan said the Republican governor will consider the legislation when it reaches his desk.

Hogan has shown support for the program. He has announced plans to spend $11.5 million to eliminate its waiting list and increase the value of the vouchers by 8 percent. That would push the combined federal-state spending on Maryland’s program to more than $100 million.

Sen. Nancy King, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said she hopes Hogan signs it despite his aversion to spending mandates. “I understand he does not like being told what to do,” the Montgomery County Democrat said.

The subsidy program serves families with an estimated 13,800 children in Maryland.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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