On October 23rd, the National Women’s Law Center released a new report comparing state child care assistance programs. Child care assistance is a proven support to help low-income parents retain employment as well as provide a stable and consistent place for children to learn and develop. Each state sets their own criteria and policies for child care subsidies which can either help more working families find and maintain employment or limit families’ access to this support.
Despite sequestration and budget cuts across the nation, families in 27 states were better off as a result of state policy changes that included increasing eligibility limits or adjusting the subsidies for inflation.
According to the report, Kentucky now has the lowest eligibility level in the nation for child care assistance (100 percent of the federal poverty level) due to the state cuts to this program over the past few months. To put this in terms of dollars, the income cut-off for a family of three is now $18,530, which translates to a weekly average income of about $356 a week.
The report also included information on states’ waiting lists for child care assistance. Families are waiting in line for assistance in a handful of states, with lists as high as 61,000 children. Kentucky is one of only two states that currently have a freeze on applications meaning that parents cannot even get on a waiting list because the state is not accepting applications.
The Commonwealth does maintain assistance for families that are looking for a job for up to four weeks after employment has been lost. That assistance can provide a small cushion for families who have fallen on hard times by losing work. Some states do not provide this cushion while job hunting.
Quality child care ensures children have a strong start in life. Parents receiving child care assistance can go to work with the confidence that their children are safe and cared for. And Kentucky can benefit by keeping parents in the workforce so that they can contribute to the economic security of the Commonwealth.
This report confirms much of what we already knew: Kentucky is not doing enough to support and strengthen working families. Kentucky legislators need to restore funding to the Child Care Assistance Program in 2014. Budgets always require tough choices. But especially now – Kentucky can’t afford a budget fails to invest in kids.
Read these articles for more information on the report and where Kentucky stands: