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Lawmakers Face 'Time-Out' For Childcare Funding

When they write a new state budget this winter, Kentucky lawmakers will likely revisit cuts in state funding for childcare.  The program, which helped provide working-class parents with affordable day care, stopped accepting new applications last spring. Income guidelines are also affecting thousands of families.

An 86-million dollar shortfall in the Cabinet for Health and Human service prompted the cutback in subsidies.  Childhood Council of Kentucky Director Bradley Stevenson says the biggest impact was felt by low-income families where both parents worked. Statewide, he says about four thousand families were impacted, with more than 500 in Fayette County alone.  Stevenson says some parents had to leave their jobs so they could care for their kids.

“Clients that come back for the annual redetermination, almost all of them, almost all of them have to make a choice, because they are not eligible. They have to make a choice whether to reduce their hours which reduce their wages, or just quit work,” said Stevenson.

The Childhood Council of Kentucky manages subsidy payments for the state.  Stevenson predicts the problem will be addressed early in this winter’s regular legislative session.  Until a solution is found, he worries parents will opt for unregulated family and neighborhood childcare.

“And that’s the tough part.  We don’t capture that information to even know what they’re doing.  But, there’s only a few options that parents would have, if they are going to work.  The mostly likely option is to go to a relative, or a friend, or a neighbor,” added Stevenson.

The trend disturbs Lexington Council member Kevin Stinnett…who says forcing people into unemployment is the wrong answer.

“And what we’re encouraging people as you alluded to is ‘not to work.’  And this system should be built on getting people back to work and encouraging that and helping those who do, not those who don’t.  But those who do, we need to encourage that more,” said Stinnett.

During its next meeting, the Lexington Council will consider another resolution asking state lawmakers to restore funding for childcare subsidies.

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