Child-care aid declines across U.S., but Colo. fares better
More states have decreased child-care assistance for families in the past year, and after several years of cutbacks, that means families in more states are getting lower assistance than they received in 2001, according to a study by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC).
NWLC started conducting an annual survey of state child-care assistance policies because it recognized the importance of child care in helping children, families and communities thrive. For many low-income families, high child-care costs create a barrier to seeking and keeping employment, and high costs also make it difficult to afford a quality learning environment for their children.
Each state was surveyed to find out who qualifies for child-care assistance, if those eligible are actually being served, the out-of-pocket costs are for parents, what choices parents have for child care and its quality, and if parents looking for work are eligible for assistance.
• Federal child-care funding has seen a 22 percent decrease since 2001, resulting in a decline of $2.4 billion (adjusted for inflation).
• Between 2001 and 2012, nearly half of the states failed to increase income eligibility limits to keep pace with inflation.
• Twenty-three states had waiting lists or stopped enrolling new families in 2012.
• In 2001, 22 states reimbursed child-care providers at the federally recommended level of 75 percent of current market rates; in 2012 only one state set its reimbursement rate at the federally recommended level.
Colorado is unique because the distribution of child-care assistance varies by county. In most states, the state sets regulations for assistance. Since 2001, most Colorado counties have increased income eligibility limits to keep pace with inflation.
Colorado made great strides in reducing its wait-list numbers from 5,205 children in 2011 to only 677 children in 2012. Colorado has the smallest waiting list of the 23 states that have one.
Colorado requires families at 100% of poverty to pay a larger percent of monthly income toward child care than 43 other states.
Colorado counties do not reimburse child-care providers at the federally recommended rate. For example, Denver County's reimbursement rate is at least 30 percent below than the recommended rate and is much lower than in most states. As a result, low-income families have fewer options for quality child care since many child-care providers cannot operate at that compensation level.
Colorado is one of only 16 states that allow parents to apply for child-care assistance while searching for a job, making the process of seeking employment significantly more accessible to low-income parents.
– Sarah Lipscomb
Article posted on October 29, 2012