Starting Tuesday, low-income workers who want state help paying for day care will have to get in line.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Washington will put some applicants for child-care subsidies on a waiting list, according to the Department of Early Learning.
Officials will aim to keep enrollment at or below 35,200 families. Applicants beyond that cap will go on a waiting list. Enrollment stood a little over 36,000 in January.
But families with special-needs children or who are poor enough to be eligible for welfare will be exempted, and no one will be kicked off the program, as happened last year when the eligibility income was lowered to 175 percent of the poverty level.
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An even larger cut in eligibility was slated by Gov. Chris Gregoire, but under pressure from lawmakers her budget office canceled it in favor of the waiting list and higher co-pays for parents.
The waiting list is expected to save $5 million through June, not the more than $12 million planned under the original cuts. The rest of the cuts will have to come from somewhere else in the welfare budget.
Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, today said the waiting list represents an acceptable compromise considering the tough decisions that have to be made as the state gets more applications for welfare aid without more help from the federal government. She and other lawmakers want to take over authority for the welfare budget from the governor.