The state will expand a child care subsidy to cover an estimated 6,000 more low-income working families starting in August, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Friday evening.
New Eligibility Standard
On Aug. 4, families will become eligible for the subsidy with an income of 140 percent or less of the federal poverty level—$2,608 per month for a family of four. The program is expected to expand to cover families earning 150 percent or less of the poverty level (its 2013 level) on July 1, 2015.
“The most direct path to a stronger Kentucky, the very best thing Kentucky can do for its future, is to build a healthier, more educated population and workforce, and that begins with getting our children off to a good start,” Beshear said Friday in a statement.
For the past year, Kentucky families were eligible for the program if they were already enrolled and earned no more than 100 percent of the federal poverty standards—$1,863 per month for a family of four.
Earlier this year, Beshear asked for full restoration of funding to CCAP in his budget request. The General Assembly would approve less—$38.6 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Youth advocates and child care owners anticipated the maximum income limit to expand to 125 of the federal poverty level on July 1. The increase announced Friday evening will cover more children, but youth advocates fretted that the month-long delay will cause further financial burden for child care centers.
Brenda Bowman, chief operating officer for Southside Christian Child Care, said Friday morning that her 18 Kentucky centers have reduced staffing by 30 percent in the past year.
“The bottom line is our infrastructure in early childhood education has fallen and if they wait too long there’s not going to be one left,” Bowman said. “I know I sound dramatic, but it is that serious.”
On Friday evening, Beshear said the legislature’s decision to budget the program than his request led to the delay.
Beth Jurek, the cabinet’s executive director for policy and budget, told a legislative committee earlier this week that less-than-expected state revenues also played a role in the delay.
Before Beshear’s announcement Friday evening, Kentucky Youth Advocates executive director Terry Brooks said the state had a “pragmatic and ethical obligation” to release information about what the changes would be and how they’d be implemented.
“Every day and week that passes after July 1 in implementing these supports will pull the rug out from many Kentuckians,” Brooks said in a statement.
On Friday evening, Brooks applauded the state’s move to expand CCAP to cover more children.
“That means that child care centers—such a vital element of the small business community across the commonwealth—can sustain viable operations,” Brooks said in a statement. “That means that the power of quality early childhood experiences in health outcomes and preparedness for school will deepen.”
The cabinet will soon send information to child care centers outlining the application process.
“We will work closely with child care providers statewide to implement this expansion as quickly and seamlessly as possible,” said Department for Community Based Services Commissioner Teresa James in a statement.