Local gov’ts say day care policy funds won’t cut it

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Local gov’ts say day care policy funds won’t cut it

Though the government’s free day care policy for toddlers under 24 months was just implemented in March, after months of complaining about budget strains, local governments are saying their funds will not cover the cost of the program come fall.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it estimates that funding for the program will run out as early as August. The Seoul city government covers 80 percent of free toddler day care, or 132 billion won ($113 million), from the city and another 67 billion won from the district offices, while the national government covers 20 percent.

Stating it will lack some 200 billion won to cover the program’s budget, a city government official said Friday last week that “according to district offices, provision of free day care will need to be halted come August or September.”
Other local governments throughout the country, including Busan, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan, Gangwon, and North and South Chungcheong, stated Tuesday they have not reflected the cost of free day care into their supplementary budget plans.

In the case of Gwangju, the city’s government expressed that its recent supplementary budget proposal didn’t include the city’s burden of funding the free toddler child care program, which is 28 percent of the total cost, or 8.2 billion won.

National coffers contribute 60 percent, or 17.6 billion won, of the free day care program’s budget for the city, and the remaining 12 percent of the budget, or 3.5 billion won, is derived from Gwangju’s five district offices.

The city stated that if the national government does not allocate more funding for the free day care policy, come October the program will “come to a halt.”
Daejeon likewise did not reflect some 100 billion won to be covered by the city and its five districts for the free day care program in its supplementary budget proposal.

Local governments have, from the beginning, balked at the idea of providing free day care for toddlers, stating that they wouldn’t be able to shoulder the cost.
The government initially proposed providing free child care for toddlers under age 2 for families in the lowest 70 percent income bracket. But the legislature revised the program to include all families with toddlers.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare stated that some 306,000 families registered for the program this year.

By Sarah Kim[sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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