Kentucky children’s advocates were surprised and pleased with Gov. Steve Beshear’s recent budget proposal to restore a child care subsidy cut last year.
Christina Stopher is more worried than anything else.
On the same day Beshear unveiled his budget proposal, Stopher found out that she was losing the child care subsidy for her boys, 3 and 5.
Incidentally, Stopher is an assistant director of a Hikes Point child care center. The full cost of child care is about 85 percent of her weekly income; the Child Care Assistance Program for low-income working families covered most of the cost.
“I’ll probably have to go get on food stamps and all the other things I worked hard to get off of,” Stopher said.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said he’s already spoken with state legislators about Beshear’s proposal to restore CCAP, other budget proposals related to children.
Brooks said he’s optimistic that the money being sent to CCAP (and other children-centric initiatives in the budget proposal) will be in the state’s final budget.
“When we’re able to restore those supports, kids and families win, local economies win and, ironically, in the long term the state budget wins because of what it does for kids and what it does for workers,” Brooks said.
Critics of the CCAP cuts—and state officials—have said it’s caused affected parents to quit job, such as Stopher’s situation and a rise in unregulated caregivers (which aren’t as educationally enriching as child care centers and potentially dangerous). Critics have also said that the CCAP cuts have led to the closure of child care centers that rely on CCAP recipients for business.
Several child care centers have closed in Kentucky because of the cuts, said Susan Vessels, executive director of Louisville’s Community Coordinated Childcare.
Here’s how the cuts have broken down since July:
“We know that there are thousands of kids that have lost their child care subsidy, and you just have to really wonder where those kids are right now—if they’re staying home alone or if they are in less than stellar settings,” Vessels said.
Vessels said she and other critics of the CCAP cuts plan to lobby legislators to follow through on the governor’s proposal when they pass a final budget budget.
Child care for a 4-year-old in Kentucky costs an average of $6,007 per year in 2012, according to a Child Care Aware study.
The cuts were announced almost exactly a year ago. Because of an $86.6-million budget shortfall, the state lowered the maximum income for eligibility—a family of three qualified with an annual income of less than $27,795 before the cuts.
After the cuts went into effect in July, the most a family of three could make was $18,530.
Stopher, a single parent, earned less than the old minimum, but more than the new one.
Beshear’s budget proposal adds $52.7 million in the 2014-15 budget and $58.1 in the 2015-16 budget. It would restore eligibility to people at 150 percent or less of the federal poverty level (the $27,795 figure for a family of three) and lift a freeze on new CCAP applicants that began in April.
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers has said restoring CCAP is a top priority, but he’s said he also needs to see more about the reinstated federal poverty level limits.
Stopher said she’s concerned about pulling her children out of a child care environment, where they’ve given school-readiness skills. Her oldest son is now a student at Klondike Lane Elementary near her work most of the year, though she lives in South Louisville. What was then a convenience will now be a logistics issue.
Even if the General Assembly and governor restore the funds, Stopher will go at least several months without child care and, transversely, a job. If the funds are restored, she’ll have to find a new job and reapply for CCAP.
“I’m not going to be able to provide the things that my kids need throughout the months because I won’t have any job to get any money to do anything. I don’t know. It’s just kind of crazy,” she said.
Kentucky Public Radio’s Jonathan Meador contributed to this story.
(Image via Shutterstock)