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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Critics of cuts by House point to family costs

CONCORD – Child care advocates warned Tuesday that U.S. House-approved cuts to human services programs would tear irreversible holes in the safety net.

Every Child Matters hosted a conference call with advocates critical of the $61 billion in cuts that the House approved in February but the U.S. Senate rejected earlier this month.

More than 10 percent of the state’s children live in poverty and 46,000 rely upon food stamps, said MaryLou Beaver, state director for Every Child Matters.

“Now is not the time to be cutting smart policies and proven programs that benefit New Hampshire’s children,” Beaver said.

Republican congressman Charles Bass said the House has to take action now if Congress is ever to return to a balanced budget.

“We need to curb the uncontrollable federal spending that threatens job creation and our economic recovery,” Bass said in a statement. “We have a lot of tough choices to make about funding our priorities, and funding them responsibly. But if we cannot learn to live within our means now, we will doom our children and grandchildren to a future of unsustainable and crushing debt and deficits.”

The cuts would lower by 22 percent federal grants for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs that would end placements for 400 children, said Rebecca Johnson, director of family services at Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties Inc. in Concord.

This would eliminate 135 jobs and close at least 27 classes.

“Such cuts would severely compromise the ability of at-risk children to attend any form of preschool before entering public school,” Johnson said.

The cuts in child care come despite the fact more and more families are seeking the federal subsidy. One program in Sullivan Country grew by more than 325 cases last month.

“When parents must leave their jobs because they cannot afford childcare, the economy suffers,’’ said Cathy Paradis, director of the Family School Connections Childcare Resource and Referral.

Denise Elswick, a single mother of three, said she would have trouble staying in school if cuts to Pell grants go through.

She’s held at least three jobs in the past to feed her family.

“It is unfortunate for me to have to choose between keeping a roof over my head and pursuing a degree to get a better life,” Elswick said.

Meanwhile, KidsVote.org began airing radio commercials in the state criticizing House Republicans for endorsing these budget cuts.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.