Sun February 24, 2013
Little Hope Remains for Staving Off Child Care Subsidy Cuts in Kentucky General Assembly Session
Little hope remains for staving off drastic cuts a child care subsidy program for low-income, working Kentucky families to pay for child care costs before the first round of cuts go into effect in April.
The General Assembly wouldn't be able to reopen the budget to find funds to the program, said state Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican and chair of the Health and Welfare Committee. Denton recently told WFPL that she'd challenge Gov. Steve Beshear to find money for the program.
That's not possible, Beshear said.
"Those that talk about that there are plenty of secret pots of money over there, there's a reason that they don't tell you where they are—it's because they're not there," Beshear told WFPL. "If they were there, I'd be tapping them. Believe you me, because I think those programs are vital for a lot of folks in this state."
Last month, the Department for Community Based Services announced that it was cutting eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program because of an $86.6 million budget shortfall. In April, no new applicants will be accepted, except in a few circumstances. In July, the income for families to be eligible for the program decreases from 150-percent of the federal poverty level to 100 percent.
The changes mean that an estimated 14,000 children on average per month who would've been eligible under the old standards will no longer be able to get the subsidies. Currently, CCAP gives childcare assistance for an estimated 42,000 children on average per month, the department said.
Child advocates said the changes raise a bevy of concerns—working low-income parents may have to quit jobs because they can no longer afford child care or they may turn to unlicensed child care, which may put some children in danger.
"We looked far and wide for any option—because the last option was to make the cuts that we had to make. But the money is simply not there," Beshear said. "We have to make decisions like do we cut the number of social worker? Do we cut Meals on Wheels? That's all that's left."
The Department for Community Based Service's funding issues could be addressed with more revenue, the governor said. That would mean tax reform, and Denton suggested during a committee meeting that this issue could prod state leaders into a special session to take up the issue.
Still, a special session couldn't stop the cuts to CCAP from starting.
Terry Brooks, executive director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Beshear and Denton both have points.
"The reason Kentucky families are in such dire straits is that we have met needs through smoke and mirrors for too long and we have run out of budget tricks," Brooks said.
"A call to budget and tax reform is the first step in addressing kids and family needs in the long-term. A second step will be to clearly make children a commonwealth priority. We have more than a few sacred cows that are always protected in every state budget—it is time to make Kentucky’s kids one of those 'signature investments.'"