Yesterday, child advocates and parents spoke out at a public hearing on the importance of fully restoring funding for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) at 150 percent of the poverty level. They told legislators on the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources stories of families across the state whose lives have been thrown into disarray due to the April 1 cuts to child care assistance and ensuing freeze on new applications.
Adrienne Bush, executive director of Hazard Perry County Community Ministries testified that in her county, 90 children are estimated to lose child care assistance meaning that many parents will have to reduce their hours or quit their jobs altogether. Bush pointed out, “in the distressed economy of Eastern Kentucky, one job loss is one too many. I’m here to tell you we can’t afford that loss.”
Jana Allen, local area manager for Audubon Area Community Services, an agency servicing 16 counties in Western Kentucky, shared a heart-breaking story of a single mother with three children who was working two jobs to support her family. After the cuts, the mother made $524 too much to remain eligible for child care assistance. Her budget could not withstand the blow and she could no longer afford to pay rent, leaving her and her children homeless. As a result, the siblings, two of them twins, were taken into the homes of three different relatives and rarely saw each other. Allen implored committee members to support the Governor’s budget and fully restore child care assistance. She stated, “Our parents want to work. They want to be contributing members of society. So why are we taking that ability away?”
Christina Stopher, a single mother of two young boys and assistant director at Southside Christian Child Care shared how child care costs 85 percent of her paycheck, meaning that without assistance, it doesn’t make it affordable to work. At the prospect of losing her assistance Stopher told committee members she would have to go back to relying on housing assistance, food stamps, and other public assistance that she had worked so hard to get off of.
Sharon Yelton, a mother who relied on child care assistance in addition to other public benefits decades ago ended the testimony by sharing how CCAP helped her build a new life for herself and her family. It allowed her to complete her bachelor’s degree while working and eventually get hired at Harvard University. Now back in Kentucky, Yelton graduated from law school in May and will take the bar exam in two weeks. She credits CCAP as the defining factor that helped her to become able to support herself and feels so disappointed to hear that young parents who are facing similar situations today will not have the same opportunity.
For every story shared yesterday there are countless others statewide, in which these cuts forced parents to quit their jobs, disrupted the stability of their children, and even led them to end up homeless. In hearing the stories today, we are reminded of countless other Kentuckians who have been devastated by the cuts last year and other fellow citizens who have thrived because of the power of the “hand up” that child care supports provide. It is clear that the restoration of CCAP to at least 150 percent is necessary to support Kentucky children and families. This is the kind of investment that ensures parents can keep their jobs; that while parents are at work, children are cared for in settings that ensure safety and preparation to succeed in school; and that local economies thrive.