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Child care subsidy rate freeze advances
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Child care subsidy rate freeze advances

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A budget-related bill that would freeze state child care subsidy rates for a year, until they can be addressed again in October 2018, advanced Wednesday to a second round of consideration.

Ten senators voted against advancing the bill, citing the difficulty for child care providers who accept low-income children of working or student parents, providers whose expenses increase year to year. 

Thirty-one senators voted to advance the bill, which was amended Tuesday to ensure that in the next fiscal year provider pay wouldn't go below the 50th percentile of the child care and development fund market rate survey. 

Sen. Merv Riepe, chairman of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee and introducer of the bill (LB335) on behalf of the governor, emphasized the bill would not cut rates to adversely affect vulnerable children.

A market rate survey should be available by the time the bill gets to a second round of debate, and would be evaluated then, Riepe said. 

"If we kill LB335 now, we tie our hands in a couple of months," said Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, referring to the state budget debate.

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said annual child care costs for an infant is more than $9,000 a year. A 4-year-old costs nearly $8,000 a year. 

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld said the bill was bad policy that should be killed.

"I hear a lot of words on this floor about caring about working families, about ensuring that Nebraskans are successful, about recruiting and attracting young Nebraskans, retaining them and keeping them here. But I see very little action on it ... except in the reverse," Morfeld said, referring to bills like LB335. 

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said the child care subsidy program should not be in the running to be cut. 

"They can call it holding steady where they are," Chambers said. "But you all know that in this society, there are certain jobs that you hold, certain government programs that have automatic stair step increases." 

All these matters are relative, he said. 

"If you stand still and everybody else moves, you fall farther behind without making a move yourself, one way or the other."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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