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State further reduces eligibility for child care subsidy; protesters fight back

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HARTFORD —Financial child care subsidies for low-income households are being cut even further due to federal changes.

On Tuesday, the Office of Early Childhood announced that fewer families would be eligible for the Care 4 Kids program, which provides subsidies for child care.

Tuesday evening protesters marched from the Capitol building in Hartford to a McDonald’s on Washington Street as part of the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement, but another objective was to bring back the full Care 4 Kids eligibility. They chanted about the need for child care.

Merrill Gay, the executive director for Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said the news was a small victory because they'd expected further cuts for families who already receive and are relying on the subsidy. But it still cuts deep for families in need. "Child care is enormously expensive and for many low wage working families you just can not possibly afford the cost of market rate child care."

He added that the Care 4 Kids program "enables families to work and help to support their families. Without it it's almost impossible for families to get quality licensed care."

The reductions began in June when state officials announced that they'd found a way to ensure thousands of needy Connecticut families already getting the subsidy would still receive the money, but new families would not get it.

The Office of Early Childhood announced at that time that instead of cutting off coverage to existing families who didn't meet new eligibility rules, the program would be closed to new applications for low-income working parents as of Aug. 1.

During that June announcement, the office said new applicants who qualify as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, as well as former TANF recipients from the last five years and certain 18- and 19-year-old parents who attend high school would remain eligible for the child care subsidy.

However, on Tuesday it was announced that the TANF families and teen parents would no longer be eligible as of December 31 due to further budget issues.

"The Care 4 Kids program is currently unable to serve as many families as it has supported in the past due to new federal policy requirements that have resulted in increased caseload numbers and longer periods of enrollment for each family," a statement said. Those changes include a shift from eight-month to 12-month eligibility redetermination; a three-month extension of the subsidy for parents searching for a job after losing employment; and an increase in the number of enrolled families.

About 1,800 families who would have applied for the subsidy over the next six months will now be denied.

 

"We realize the impact this will have on many working families. We support the goal of many of the federal policy changes that create stability and continuity in care for families. However, these changes have made the program more expensive per child and the OEC must take steps to mitigate this increased cost,” said Linda Goodman, OEC acting commissioner, on Tuesday.

The OEC will continue to have a wait list for parents who apply for Care 4 Kids but are no longer eligible under the changes. More information about the program is also available at www.ctcare4kids.com.