Kentucky’s legislators are set to take up the issue of legislative redistricting during a special session next month. And while they tackle something that should have been taken care of last year, there are families living here in Eastern Kentucky being cut off right now from state child care assistance because the legislature hasn’t bothered to plug an $86.6 million budget hole for the Department of Community Based Services.
As a result, the state has placed a moratorium on new applicants into Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and also tightened eligibility guidelines that essentially will cut off many low-income families from receiving assistance.
For Hazard resident Carolyn Collins, the state’s failure to find a solution in lieu of cuts means she and her husband are scrambling to find an alternative child care program. During an interview with the Herald earlier this month, Collins said she just missed the deadline to get her family enrolled in the program. Once the date passed the moratorium kicked in and her family was treated as a new applicant and declined any possibility of assistance until next year.
As a result, the child care assistance her family once received that allowed her two children, ages 2 and 3, to receive quality care at the New Beginnings center in Hazard was about to come to an end. Calls to the state’s child care assistance line confirmed that their assistance, which fully paid for her children’s daycare and included early childhood education, was not an option this year.
“Basically, they told me there was no help,” she said.
Collins continues to support her family with a minimum wage job in Hazard, while her husband was forced to leave his part-time employment to take care of their children. Paying for daycare at $240 a week on her salary would have essentially meant all of her income would be going to child care.
“If I did send my children (to daycare), I would never come out making any money in my job,” she said.
Fortunately there may be an alternative locally through LKLP, Collins noted, but even then it could be a few months down the road.
Likely, Collins’ story isn’t unique in Kentucky. Annual enrollment in CCAP was roughly 75,000 last year, according to the 2012 KIDS COUNT data. Considering the moratorium and the new guidelines decreasing eligibility from 150 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent, we can expect a significant number of families to be affected by this change. These are families like Carolyn Collins’ where perhaps both parents work, or maybe their holding down jobs while furthering their education or vocational training, all while raising their children.
But there could be some hope, since the General Assembly is set for a special session next month. Gov. Steve Beshear can still add this issue to the agenda for next month, and he well should. These are families that need help, and in some cases are working to get a leg up, holding down jobs in a job market where doing so is becoming increasingly more difficult, especially here in Eastern Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear has talked a lot about the importance of early childhood education that local child care agencies like New Beginnings and the Lions Montessori school offer. In 2009 he created the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education. Obviously, this issue is on his radar, so it makes little sense that it’s one he doesn’t deem worthy of addressing anytime this year, all while families who are finding it hard to make ends meet are now finding it even harder.
It certainly won’t be an easy issue to tackle, but we think it would be well worth it to do some work this year, instead of again putting it off until the new year rolls around.
— The Hazard Herald