New guidelines may increase cost of child care for some NC families

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The cost of child care for Piedmont families could increase starting in October. Child care subsidies in the state are currently in place for some low and medium-income families.

New guidelines would tighten those income requirements and separate the subsidy eligibility by age of the children.

Current program eligibility (based on 75 percent of state median income):

Family of 2 -- $34,164 per year max income
Family of 3 - $42,204 per year max
Family of 4 - $50,244 per year max

Program starting Oct. 1:

Children 0-5 (Based on 200 percent of 2014 Federal Poverty rate):
Family of 2 - $31,460 per year max income
Family of 3 - $39,580 per year max income
Family of 4 - $47,700 per year max income

Children Ages 6-12 (The income guidelines go to 133% of Federal Poverty rate):

Based upon the 2014 federal guidelines, these are:
Family of 2 - $20,921 per year max income
Family of 3 - $26,321 per year max income
Family of 4 - $31,721 per year max income

Information provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Department of Health and Human Services tells FOX8 12,066 children in North Carolina would have not have been eligible for subsidies under the new guidelines. That's roughly ten percent of the 121,113 children served statewide last fiscal year.

Guilford County

4,800 children participating
1,638 on waiting list
$381 per child per month on average

Executive Director of Guilford Child Development Robin Britt said, "Good care in a quality center for an infant or toddler can be seven or eight hundred dollars a month. Two kids? Infants or toddlers -- that's a lot of money. That's starting to be college education level," he explained.

Part of the goal of the program is to allow struggling families to focus more on working and lessen the burden of child care costs.

"I'm always worried about anything that affects our families and their ability to work," Britt admitted. "Entering the workplace and achieving self-sufficiency is what we want to see for every family. They become tax payers. They become positive role-models for their children."

"We have 1,600 on the wait list in Guilford County right now," Britt added. "The danger is that the parents place that child, because they don't have the money to fund themselves, in an unsafe environment."

He said not all child care centers and relatives are prepared to provide a safe and educational environment for kids.

The state is not cutting this funding, he explained, but shifting it. Child Care Centers will now have a 25 percent increase in funding.

"It's a two-edged sword. Centers do need enough to hire qualified staff," he explained, and the programs are not cheap.

But he emphasized the need to appropriately and entirely fund child care options in the state, saying that children who are not on-level for reading by third grade are more likely to drop out of school. "It benefits us all in the long run to help these children early on."

Forsyth County

3,000 children participating on average per month
1,425 on waiting list
$385 per month per child on average

"Changes made at the budget level could affect working families in Forsyth County," said Elizabeth White, Forsyth County Department of Social Services business manager. "Some families may have a younger child who is eligible but an older child who is not. Some of these families are living on minimum wage," she pointed out.

Another concern is the way in which parent fees will be assessed, she said, which is based on total number of children, not the number of eligible children.

Fees will no longer be on a sliding scale, either, they explained. It will be a 10 percent across-the-board copay for families.

Davidson County

13,045 children currently receiving child care subsidies
$357 average subsidy payment per month per child

"We currently do not have any children on a waiting list and based on recent activity in our county the reduction may not have an impact," said Davidson County DSS Director Dale Moorefield. "However, having less funds does increase the likelihood of having to institute a waiting list for Childcare Subsidy Services."

Randolph County

1,024 children participating in June 2014
599 children on the waiting list at end of July
$373 per child per month on average

"The eligibility changes will be grandfathered," explained Richard Park, assistant director and business officer of DSS in Randolph County. "The rules become effective October 1, 2014 for new applications."

Park added, "Numbers are not yet available, but it is suspected that some families may no longer be eligible for the subsidy. On the other hand, there will be enough qualifying eligible families in Randolph County to expend all funds authorized. The waiting list is confirmation of this expectation."

Alamance County

1,264 children participating in July
393 children on the waiting list at the end of July
$400 per child per month on average

Information provided by Susan Osborne, director of Alamance County DSS.

Rockingham County

868 children participating last month
80 children on the waiting list
$370.80 per child per month

"Any changes that would result in increased parent fees or higher income limits in order to qualify for Child Care Subsidy would definitely have the potential to have significant impact on the families and children we serve. The majority of families in Rockingham County who qualify for assistance with the cost of child care receive the service because the adults in the household are working," said Debbie McGuire, Health and Human Services director in Rockingham County.


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