Local/Regional News
9:42 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Report Shows Ky. With Lowest Child-Care Eligibility Rate

A new report finds it's now tougher to qualify for child care assistance in Kentucky than anywhere else in the country.

A new report finds that Kentucky has the lowest wage limit for parents to qualify for child-care assistance. Child advocates say that's forcing parents to make tough decisions.
Credit Greg Stotelmyer

In a budget-cutting move, Kentucky shifted its eligibility limit in July from 150 percent of the federal poverty rate to 100 percent.

And according the National Women's Law Center that dropped the state's income limit to the lowest in the nation.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says lawmakers should not only restore, but increase funding for child care.

"What all the national data suggests is that, really, child care supports should be expanded to 200 percent of the poverty level," he says. "That really is what it takes for families to make ends meet."

According to the report, Kentucky's income limit is now $18,530 a year for a family of three, well below the second lowest limit, which is in Nebraska, at about $22,908.

And it goes against the trend, where, according to the report, nearly half of the states increased their limits this year.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he cut $87 million in child care funding after exhausting all available options. Before the change, a family of three could make close to $28,000 and still qualify for the state's help.

Michelle Sanborn, president of Children's Alliance, fears the cuts are pushing more children into foster care, which will cost taxpayers much more in the long run.

"It is a little bit of money to help those families keep their child care assistance," she says. "However, if a child comes into out-of-home care or the foster care system, it's a lot more expensive."

In addition to the lower eligibility limit, no new low-income working families have been added to the child-care assistance program since April.

The National Women's Law Center says Kentucky is one of only two states with a freeze on new applications.

Brooks says parents are having to quit their jobs to care for their children.

"The idea that we have Kentuckians being added to the rolls of unemployment, not because they want to but because they have to in order to provide child care for their children, that's simply a condition that no one can tolerate for the Commonwealth," he says.