Washington – The move to improve a child care subsidy program that helps low- and moderate-income families has also made it more expensive and forced Connecticut to cut 6,100 children from the rolls, a state official told a Senate panel Wednesday.
Myra Jones-Taylor, commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, asked for more federal money, but Republicans said the program – whose cost is shared by states and the federal government, has had enough funding increases.
“The new policy changes are projected to increase the cost of our Care4Kids program by approximately $33 million in fiscal year 2017,” Jones-Taylor said. “Without sufficient additional federal funds to cover these costs, Connecticut has no choice but to serve fewer families.”
Taylor-Jones told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that notices went out to more than 4,000 Connecticut families last week that eligibility requirements for the Care4Kids program had changed.
Beginning July 1, the eligibility threshold for families applying for the program will change from 50 percent to 30 percent of state median income. That means that for a family of three, eligibility will be reduced from an annual household income of $44,601 to $26,760.
When the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2014, certain changes were made, including making a child eligible for the program for 12 months at a time and allowing a parent who lost his or her job three months of child care before a subsidy ends.
The legislation also called for comprehensive background checks.
“I want to be clear that I am not here today to encourage Congress to scale back on these policy changes,” Jones-Taylor said. “We do not want to take a step backward toward the days when CCDBG policies created a disincentive to earn a higher wage or a subtle change in a parent’s work schedule resulted in a loss of a subsidy.”
Thirty-seven states, including Connecticut, have applied for waivers of some of the new regulations that would make the program more affordable.
Connecticut filed a waiver of the new health and safety requirements. But the Department of Health and Human Services denied all states applying for this waiver.
Maggie Adaire, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Office of Early Education, said the state had 60 days to reapply for waiver relief.
In 2016, the annual cost of Connecticut’s child care subsidy program was about $113 million, funded with $53 million in federal funds and $60 million in state funds.
On Thursday, Democrats called for an increase in federal funding for the program, saying that nationwide, only one in six eligible children are helped by subsidies. In Connecticut, all eligible families receive subsidies for day care, and there is no waiting list, but that eligibility is about to get tighter.
“If we want to have quality…it’s going to cost more,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulsky, D-Md.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., argued that money spent on early education is an investment that reaps huge returns for the federal and state government, resulting in children who are higher wage earners when they reach adulthood and pay more taxes.
“This is about as close as we get to a no-brainer,” Warren said.
Republicans, however, said the program has received funding increases and needs no new ones.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., questioned Jones-Taylor about her request for more federal money. He said Senate Democrats have secured a $300 million increase in the program in this year’s budget.