Kentucky’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) has one of the lowest income eligibility thresholds and has among the highest co-pays for parents among state child care subsidy programs, according to the annual child care report recently released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). The report shows while nationally child care assistance is improving, Kentucky’s program is still weak.
The report assesses all 50 states’ child care programs based on their income eligibility limits, waiting lists, parent co-payments, reimbursement rates to providers and how much leeway parents have when looking for a job. NWLC finds that:
- Despite the recent restoration of prior CCAP budget cuts that had reduced eligibility based on income, Kentucky still has the ninth lowest eligibility cap in the country. Currently, assistance is limited to those with incomes below 150 percent of the 2011 federal poverty level, or only $27,795 for a family of three.
- For a family of 3 with 1 child in care living at 100 percent of 2015 poverty levels, monthly co-payments cost $130, which breaks down to roughly 8 percent of that family’s monthly income. This puts Kentucky as having the 13th highest monthly co-payment in the country. The report also looked at co-pays for a family of three at or above 150 percent of the current federal poverty level, but Kentucky doesn’t allow families at that income level to participate.
- Qualifying child care providers receive a reimbursement from the state when they care for CCAP participating children. The state will only pay up to $24 a day to the provider (minus the parents’ income-determined co-payment). That’s a lower reimbursement rate than what is recommended by federal regulations, according to the report.
- In 2013 Kentucky stopped adding new children to the CCAP waiting list because of underfunding. However, the Division of Child Care started accepting new applicants in August of 2014 and no families are currently on a waiting list.
- If a parent loses his or her job while receiving child care assistance and is actively seeking employment, they can continue to use CCAP for up to just four weeks (28 days). One bright spot in this report is that starting December 2015, parents will have 90 days of eligibility while they’re looking for a job. Only six other states meet or exceed a 90 day grace period.
CCAP is a vital program for working families who are already struggling to make ends meet. Many advocates are calling on lawmakers to increase the CCAP eligibility limit to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Total funding for child care assistance in Kentucky is still 30 percent less than pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation. Federal funding, by far the largest source, is half of what it was in 2011, and state funding has increased to make up for only a portion of that loss.