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House Panel Backs Federal Tax Benefits for Child Care

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Washington--Following a year of testimony on day care, a House committee has issued a 162-page report recommending an increase in federal tax benefits for child care and incentives for schools and employers to provide day-care services for children of working mothers.

"Our report makes clear that the existing haphazard system of providing care for children in the U.S. is unacceptable," said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families. "The situation cannot be ignored any longer. It requires immediate action by the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors alike."

Representative Miller noted at a press conference that "45 percent of all mothers with infants under the age of 1 are now in the workforce, and two-thirds of the new entrants coming into the workforce by the end of this decade will be women."

With increases in the number of young children, the number of children in single-parent homes, and3the number of mothers in the workplace, he added, the pressures on the child-care system will rise.

"We ought not sit around scrutinizing the motives of why people work," said Representative Dan Marriott, Republican of Utah and ranking Republican on the committee. "The fact is, they do--mostly for economic reasons, in my opinion. Day care is necessary."

Tax Policies

The report--"Families and Child Care: Improving the Options"--presents 11 recommendations based on the testimony of 160 witnesses from 22 states in hearings held in Washington, Dallas, and San Francisco.

Any revision of tax policy, the report recommends, should be structured to ensure that families raising children are not penalized. "Tax policies considered, separately and together, should include, but not be limited to, the personal and dependent exemption, the dependent-care tax credit, the earned-income tax credit, family allowances, and the dependent-care assistance program," according to the report.

The panel also recommended that incentives be developed so that private employers can expand child-care options for their employees. Among the options suggested are fringe-benefit programs, on- or off-site care centers, referral services, and tax incentives.

Employers should also be encouraged to improve parental-leave policies "for giving birth or spending an acceptable period at home with their infants," according to the report.

'Incentive Grants'

Schools should be given federal "incentive grants" to assist after-school child-care programs for preschoolers and school-age children, the report recommends. Moreover, it argues, "These programs should be offered on a sliding-fee-scale basis to allow for the participation of families from all income levels."

To reduce the incidence of child abuse, the federal government should withhold aid from states that fail to provide adequate health, safety, or law-enforcement standards for the protection of children in out-of-home care, the report recommends.

The report also recommends that the Congress immediately provide funds under the Social Services Block Grant at the maximum level authorized for fiscal 1985 under Title XX of the Social Security Act, with an emphasis on child-care services.

Committee Reaction

In statements submitted with the report, several committee members assailed current federal policies and urged government officials to call a national conference to discuss ways to provide high-quality day care and to examine current licensing policies and practices.

Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana and a committee member, while signing the report, said in his comment that he was opposed to the proposals because, according to his calculations on how much they would cost to implement, they would increase the federal budget by $727 million. "I believe increasing the federal deficit would do more harm to our children and families," he said. The report did not include cost estimates for the 11 recommendations.

Copies of the report are available from the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, Room 385, House Annex II, 2nd and D Sts. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20515.

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