Families pay full daycare fees as subsidies delayed

Labor Ministry: Worker sanctions and eligibility changes are responsible.

daycare 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy, Meir Maman)
daycare 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy, Meir Maman)
Numerous low-income families have been forced to shell out thousands of extra shekels for day care, as a combination of disorganization and government workers' sanctions have led to lengthy delays in the distribution of subsidies for day care centers nationwide, The Jerusalem Post has learned. "We are supposed to pay a combined total of NIS 1,500 a month for our two children who are in [government-sponsored] day care, but since September we have been paying the full cost of NIS 3,400 a month," said Malynnda Littky, who immigrated from the US last year with her husband, Bruce, and sends two of her three children to day care. "My husband was laid off last month, but even when he was working full-time we had to spend about one-third of our combined salary on day care," she said. "With our household utility bills, rent and other expenses we have now reached the limit of our overdraft with the bank. "Several other families in my children's day care are in the same situation," said Littky, who lives in Mitzpeh Yeriho. "They do not seem to be so concerned and say it will be sorted out soon, but I am very worried, bordering on total panic. We just don't have the backup resources for this." The Labor, Trade and Industry Ministry admitted Monday that there has been a severe delay in distributing the subsidies to thousands of families. It blamed the backlog on workers' sanctions imposed by the ministry's Department of Day Care Centers and Nursery Schools, as well as a change in determining the payment scale for families that was implemented late in the last school year. "There was a worker's dispute in November, but we hope it will be sorted out by the end of this month," said Tamar Almog, director of the day care and kindergartens department, who stopped short of apologizing for the economic stress that the delay has caused to families, many of whom rely heavily on the reduced day-care costs to allow them to go out to work. But some of the nonprofit organizations that run government-subsidized day care say the delay in distributing subsidies is an ongoing problem. "Every year there is a delay in receiving the funds from the Labor, Trade and Industry Ministry but usually it is no more than a month or two," commented Liora Minka, chairwoman of Emunah-Israel, which provides day-care programs for some 800,000 children. "This year the problem is even worse, though, because they [the ministry] have still not determined what levels people have to pay." Minka estimated that roughly one-third of Emunah's families have yet to receive the subsidies to which they are entitled. At the Na'amat women's organization, which runs hundreds of government-sponsored day-care centers, the situation is the same, said spokeswoman Carmel Eitan. She claimed that the delay was due to a bureaucratic error and disorganization on the part of the ministry, which outsources the application processing to a private enterprise. "It's a terrible situation," she said. "We have been trying to help out these families as much as possible but it's really hard on them." Almog denied that the delay was due to bad management, pointing out that directives for subsidy levels had changed in June, leaving little time for the private company, which she refused to identify, to reprocess the applications. "We sent them the information late in the year and that, combined with the workers' sanctions, is the source of the problem," she explained. She added that the ministry has been outsourcing the administrative side for the past three years and while "there needs to be some improvement, overall we are happy with the company's performance." Almog estimated that roughly 10,000 families out of the more than 85,000 registered in the government-subsidized day-care system are still waiting for their subsidies.