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Commission seeks feedback about affordability of child care

Suffolk's Welfare to Work Commission -- a panel that makes social service recommendations to county lawmakers -- will host two public hearings in December to collect testimony from low-income families struggling to pay for child care.

The testimony from parents will be used alongside testimony from education experts and social services officials to create recommendations for the legislature to consider next year, said Richard Koubek, chairman of the commission at a news conference in Hauppauge Monday.

"We hope to go to the legislature with specific recommendations to try to tweak the system, so we can have a better system for all the children in Suffolk County," Koubek said.

The hearings, scheduled for Dec. 2 in Hauppauge and Dec. 18 in Riverhead, come a year after the county dropped some 2,000 children from its child care program citing previous years of state budget cuts and rising demand for the program that helps low-income families pay for a portion of their child care costs.

In July, the county added more than half of the impacted children back, due to the county kicking in $3.5 million in funding and a $1 million increase in state funding, but for those parents no longer receiving the aid, they often have to choose between leaving their jobs to stay at home with their children or relying on unlicensed providers, said Janet Wallerstein, executive director of the Child Care Council of Suffolk, a nonprofit advocacy group.

"We're speaking about lineworkers, receptionists, clerks, they are the backbone of our economy," Wallerstein said. "This is an economic development issue as child care keeps Suffolk working."

The hearings are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Hauppauge Legislative Auditorium, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Riverhead Legislative Auditorium, 300 Center Drive.

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