Jeffersontown, KY –Hundreds of child advocates from across Kentucky are in Frankfort today on the opening day of the special legislative session for the Fund Kids First Rally. Those present are speaking out for restored funding to the Child Care Assistance and Kinship Care Programs and asking state leaders to “Fund Kids First” when they return to Frankfort in January to work on the next two-year budget.
The rally comes after the state ended its fiscal year with a $70.6 million surplus and put some of the surplus into the rainy day fund. This occurred after the Governor implemented deep cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program and the Kinship Care Program. Child advocates are using this opportunity to let state legislators and the Governor know that “Budget cuts = Rainy days for kids” and it’s time to “Fund Kids First” including restored funding to the Child Care Assistance Program and the Kinship Care Program.
“It’s that dad who can’t enroll in the community college this year because he has to find a way to take care of his kid. It’s that mom who was making some progress in her work who had to quit, because again, they couldn’t afford quality child care,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
Since April 1, no new families have been able to receive child care assistance or apply for the Kinship Care Program. Child care assistance helps low-income working families afford child care while the Kinship Care Program provides financial support to grandparents and other relatives who are raising children because they cannot live safely with their parents. In addition, the state changed income eligibility limits for child care assistance from 150 percent to 100 percent of the poverty level, causing 8,700 families to lose child care assistance each month.
Several speakers at the rally either benefited from the child care and kinship care programs or are directly impacted by the cuts. Sharon Yelton, a speaker at the rally, relied on the Child Care Assistance Program 18 years ago when she became a single mom so that she could work and attend school.
“Without the program, I could not have gotten my Bachelor’s degree and graduated with honors while also staying employed,” said Ms. Yelton. “More importantly, I was able to use a licensed child care center and I didn’t have to worry about the quality of care for my daughter. Once I graduated, I continued to use the program until I found full-time employment at Harvard University. None of this would be possible without the Child Care Assistance Program.”
Another speaker, Sandra Flynn, is a nurse from Lexington caring for five grandchildren and knows the importance of the Kinship Care Program. She understands how caring for kin children can result in extreme financial hardship even though she is trying to do the right thing by her grandkids.
Rally attendees brought umbrellas and ponchos to show these cuts are causing “Rainy days for kids” and delivered two key messages to the Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President and their own legislators:
- Restore funding to the Child Care Assistance Program and Kinship Care Program.
- Build a state budget that gives every child the best opportunity to thrive in childhood and succeed as an adult.
“In the past year, there was enough money for theme parks, bourbon and business, but apparently not enough money for kids,” added Brooks. “It’s time for our Governor, House and Senate Leadership, and all legislators to fund kids first. We look forward to working with them on that now and during the 2014 General Assembly session.”
Several child advocacy and child serving organizations collectively organized the rally. If you would like additional information or to schedule interviews with rally speakers or other advocates, please contact Andrea Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-381-1176.