An empty day care classroom in Bridgeport file photo

The state has retreated from its previous decision to cut off child care subsidies currently provided to thousands of low-income parents so they can work, and will instead largely stop accepting new families into the program starting Aug. 1.

An empty day care classroom in Bridgeport
An empty day care classroom in Bridgeport file photo

The shift means that thousands of children from poor families who previously would have qualified for weekly child care subsidies that range from $38 to $320 will no longer be eligible.

About 700 families (1,050 children) each month were joining the Care4Kids subsidy program before this change.

“We believe that maintaining continuity of care for children currently enrolled in the Care4Kids program is of the utmost importance,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, the commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. “We are pleased we were able to find a solution that ensures families currently receiving the Care4Kids subsidy will be able to remain in the program.”

Despite the change, teen parents and those receiving welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will still be able to enroll for the child care subsidy. These populations currently make up just under one-third of the enrollment in the program.

Those enrolled in the program all make under 50 percent of the state’s median income. For a single mom with two children, that’s $44,000.

The state announced last month that it would have to kick 10,800 children who currently receive the subsidy off the program to close an estimated $34 million budget gap that developed in the fiscal year that begins July 1 because of changes in federal rules.

The state and federal government together currently spend $122 million each year to help about 21,000 children each month attend preschool or day care through the Care4Kids program.

Program costs are expected to rise drastically next year because of changes in federal law that are not accompanied by increased federal funding. Under the new federal rules families who lost their full-time jobs or whose income rose too much will no longer immediately lose their subsidies, but will be allowed to stay in the program for three months once families no longer qualify.

Also, continued eligibility for the program will be redetermined every 12 months rather than every eight months to lessen the paperwork burden on participants. That change, however, will keep some people whose income rises over the maximum receiving the subsidy for longer.

State officials say more federal funding needs to accompany the federal rules changes.

“We don’t want to pit quality against access, and what we are doing is eliminating access,” Jones-Taylor, the Connecticut’s commissioner testified last week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

The state has not determined when it will resume enrolling families in the program, but it is maintaining a wait list for qualified parents.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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