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Deep cuts to child care assistance could topple poor Hardin County families.
Cost-saving measures by the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services, facing a projected $86.6 million budget shortfall, include lowering the qualifying income of families receiving assistance and suspending new applications to the Child Care Assistance Program, CCAP, still commonly referred to as 4Cs, after the agency that used to administer the program.
In July, assistance will be available to families at 100 percent of the poverty level, down from 150 percent, said Kathy King, director of Community Coordinated Child Care in the Lincoln Trail area. For 2013, the poverty level for a family of two is $15,510, and increases $4,020 for each additional family member.
Further, no new applications to the program will be accepted from April 1 until June 30, 2014.
Of the 5,000 spots in regulated Hardin County child care centers, 2,277 are taken by children in the assistance program, King said. She estimated about 40 percent of those children no longer will be eligible.
“It’s a shame. I really don’t know any other way to put it. It’s a shame for families,” King said. “Some people will have to stop working because they won’t be able to pay for child care.”
For Erin Daugherty, single mother of three, CCAP makes employment possible, she said.
“If I lose the 4Cs, there’s no way I’ll be able to work. I’ll just be working to pay day care,” she said. The unsubsidized cost of care for her children — Dalton, 1; Demi, 2; and Trent, 6 — easily could hit $300 per week, she said.
Daugherty works at one of the two Baby Tender child care centers in Elizabethtown.
Baby Tender owner Lori Moses said the centers serve about 60 children and about one-third receive assistance. She thinks several families no longer will meet the income threshold.
Moses is stunned by what those families might face, she said, noting some parents hold a job and attend college, working toward higher-paying careers.
To qualify for assistance, college students who need day care must work at least 20 hours per week.
Concerns for the well-being of poor children also are stirring.
“We know, too, that people will make not-so-good choices. Not because they’re bad parents, but because they’re backed into a corner,” King said. Parents who must keep working might choose the cheapest day care option, she said, even if there are risks to the child’s safety.
The cuts could take away from children an opportunity to learn social and other early learning skills, said Daugherty.
King agreed, noting a statewide focus on school readiness.
“How will they be ready for school if they’re not in a place that gets them ready for school?” she said.
The cuts won’t just affect poor families, but the overall child care industry.
Moses said if she loses many subsidized clients, she’d have to consider layoffs.
There are 77 regulated day cares in Hardin County and each is an employer, King said.
“You’re talking about 77 small businesses that might not be able to go on,” said.
Facilities that do not close their doors or dismiss employees might have to give up other expenses such as optional staff training.
CBSD Commissioner Teresa James said the agency has been bearing budget cuts since 2008 and shoring up child care assistance with other money, all while demand for assistance has increased.
The state estimates about one-third of children using the assistance will lose it. About 2,900 children per month will be affected by the moratorium on new applications.
The measures are expected to save about $57.8 million.
King, Moses and the director of one of the Baby Tender centers were among more than 700 people Thursday attending the ninth annual Children’s Advocacy Day in Frankfort.
The looming cuts brought many to Frankfort — including parents who told how the cuts will affect their families — but the issue did not monopolize the day, King said.
While in Frankfort, she learned of plans to review families receiving assistance every three months. Families’ files typically were reviewed annually, she said.
“Parents are not going to have a lot of time to prepare,” she said.
Public schools also accept the subsidies for child care services. Angie Lee, who coordinates Hardin County Schools’ program, said employees there still were figuring the impact, but she thinks it will be minimal as the program serves few subsidized families.
Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.