With the help of the American Rescue Plan funds, Kentucky will begin awarding child care subsidies for all employees that work in licensed and certified child care programs regardless of the role that they work, such as teachers, kitchen staff, etc. After a year of brainstorming how to best retain and attract child care employees and strengthen the child care infrastructure, Kentucky is establishing this categorical eligibility support for certified and licensed child care employees  as a “Protected Population.” 

Even after opening eligibility criteria up to more families to be served through subsidies, Kentucky was still 7,000 children below enrollment in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) prior to the pandemic. While more families may qualify, the concern remained whether there would be spots in child care programs in the communities for families to enroll in.

Kentucky recognized the need for more child care employees to serve more families and took action. This decision to provide the child care subsidy to all child care program employees really had two main goals:

  1. Our child care providers make far too little in wages, so this is one way that Kentucky can offer a fuller benefits package, even if a spouse/partner’s income may slightly push the child care provider out of the eligible income range.
  1. The child care staffing crisis has become so significant that many programs have at least one classroom closed due to a lack of staff members. Covering the cost of child care could entice some individuals back to work if they previously left the field to work in higher paying industries, like hospitality or retail.

Another added benefit of this categorical eligibility is for the child care programs. Many centers offset a portion of the cost of tuition for their own employees, but they end up losing money that way. This program will cover the cost of tuition for the child care program while still offering the employees a benefit.  

The regulation for this change was recently passed, and it will go into effect on October 24th, 2022. Check out the regulatory language if you have questions on the implementation (see Section 4, (3)).

Kentucky is the first state to offer this type of support to child care providers. Many of the child care providers in the Commonwealth may not have staff benefits like health insurance due to the fragile financial state of the child care programs. This “Protected Population” subsidy is a way for the state to help give its child care providers a larger benefits package and to support the child care programs at the same time.

Here are a few reminders and notes for those eligible:  

  • Child care providers that want to utilize this service will still need to go to their local DCBS office and apply for CCAP. 
  • The child care provider will also need to show proof of employment at a certified family child care home or a licensed child care center. 
  • NOTE: Families should not apply before October 24th because they may not qualify before the implementation of the new program. However, families that currently make 85% of the State Median Income (SMI) or lower can qualify for child care assistance now. 
  • Check out our CCAP FAQ for more information on applying.  

Earlier this month, Andrea Day, Director of Kentucky’s Division of Child Care, presented on a national webinar for the Administration of Child and Families about how Kentucky is implementing this new program to support the child care community and attract new child care providers to the field.  Day reiterated that many of the CCAP accountability measures will still be in place when the new regulation takes effect, such as:

  • Whether they work in a family child care home or a child care center, parents can still not receive the subsidy to care for their own children.   
  • The child can be in the same center as a parent but would need to be in a separate classroom.  
  • Family child care providers can still utilize the program, but it would mean the child would need to be cared for in another environment. For example, the parent may care for children from birth to five years in their home, but his/her own child attends the after-school program at the local elementary school.

Once this support is implemented at the end of October, Kentucky will be closely watching child care program staffing and child enrollment numbers throughout the state to see how this innovation practice strengthens the child care system.