Mecklenburg County Helps Families With Affordable Child Care by Changing Subsidy Requirements | WFAE 90.7

Mecklenburg County officially relaxed eligibility requirements for childcare subsidies on Wednesday to help more families with children under 12 with childcare costs.

This program will allow more families to be served,” said Janet Singerman, CEO of Childcare Resources, which administers the Mecklenburg County Child Care Subsidy Program. “Families need help paying for childcare costs.”

The county reportedly allocated about $10.5 million in remaining coronavirus relief to help more families access child care funding.

“There’s a huge cry for investment in child care because child care is a very underfunded system,” Singerman said. “I believe Mecklenburg County made this investment because it sees the connection between county priorities and the role that early education plays in the economic well-being of the family and the economic recovery of our community. “

Parents earning less than 300% above the federal poverty level are now eligible for child care subsidies. That’s $65,880 for a family of three. Federal guidelines take household size into account when determining the poverty line.

In addition to this, the number of hours a parent must work has been reduced from 30 hours to 22 hours. This is important because access to childcare can be a significant barrier to accessing employment, Singerman said.

“We believe that by reducing the number of hours required to access this new child care subsidy program, we will be able to serve more families,” Singerman said. “And with the childcare subsidy, they will be able to increase their working hours because they have reliable childcare.”

For Singerman, access to child care is important since research suggests that a child’s early years have long-term implications for their future success.

Everything we know about brain development tells us that birth to age 5 are critical years,” Singerman said. “And then what happens? A child’s early experiences have a real impact on their lifelong trajectory of success. »

Before the requirements changed, parents with a child 5 or younger were eligible for the grant if they earned less than 200% of the federal poverty level, or just under $44,000 a year for a family of three people.

And for parents with a child ages 5 to 12, they could earn less than 133% above the federal poverty level, or less than $29,200 for a family of three, and still qualify.

But the cost of childcare for a year is more than the cost of tuition at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is about $9,000 a year, Singerman said. The estimated cost of child care is at least $800 to $1,500 per month, depending on Mecklenburg County. The annual cost of child care is between $9,600 and $18,000.

For this reason, many families who are just above these financial thresholds still struggle to cover childcare costs, she said.

“Many families call us just below work requirements, just above income eligibility. And we have to say no,” Singerman said. “But these families still need help with the costs of high-quality child care. And this program will increase access.

Prior to the expansion, Mecklenburg County spent about $20 million to help subsidize child care for about 6,700 children in April this year, according to Dianna Jolly, co-director of child care financial assistance. for Childcare Resources. The new money will cover part of the costs for at least 700 new children in the program.

Jolly said Childcare Resources also receives state funding in addition to Mecklenburg County funding to support the grants.

Singerman believes the county’s decision will have a significant economic impact in our community.

“It helps us make childcare more affordable for families, which makes work more accessible to low-income working families, and really supports economic opportunity, economic mobility, and early care and education. high quality for kids,” Singerman said. “It impacts a child’s life and lifelong success.”

Parents who qualify for the subsidy are responsible for 10% of their household income in child care costs, a kind of co-payment, Singerman said. The rest of the cost is covered by the program.

Families can contact Child Care Resources at 704 348-2181 for more information or https://www.childcareresourcesinc.org/.

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