The state is changing the eligibility requirements for a program designed to help low and moderate income families pay for child care.
The Office of Early Childhood announced Tuesday that as of Dec. 31, the Care 4 Kids program will not accept new candidates who are former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) within five years, or who are teen parents ages 18 and 19 enrolled in high school or an equivalent.
This eligibility change will only affect new applicants and will not change the status of any family currently receiving a subsidy or who are eligible for redetermination.
The OEC estimates that this change will impact roughly 1,800 families who may have applied over the next six months.
“The Office of Early Childhood takes the decision to change eligibility requirements to the Care 4 Kids program very seriously and 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,” Linda Goodman, OEC Acting Commissioner said in a statement. “Our long-term endeavor is to provide high-quality early childhood opportunities to as many Connecticut children as we can and we will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to deliver on this goal.”
The change is in part because of a change in federal policy that requires the state to lengthen the period of eligibility for every child that drove costs up.
Specifically in Connecticut, the issues surrounding cost include a shift from an 8-month to a 12-month eligibility redetermination, the extension of the subsidy during a three-month job search if an enrolled parent loses employment, and an increase in number of families enrolled in the program.
In June the OEC asked the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to urge Congress to provide more funding to the Child Care Development Block Grant Act to ensure children and families get the care they need.
Earlier this month the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reported on the multi-million dollar state budget shortfall for Care 4 Kids. At that time many parents expressed concern that they would not be able to count on their day care assistance. However, the changes announced Tuesday will not have an immediate effect on care for those already enrolled in the program.
But Merrill Gay of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance said the cuts still hurt.
"Today's announcement further restricts access to the Care4kids childcare subsidy. While we are thankful that families currently relying on the program aren't being cut off, there are now over 2,200 families on the Care4kids waiting list," Gay said in a statement to NBC Connecticut. "Connecticut needs to prioritize keeping children out of poverty. Key to that is helping parents with the cost of childcare so that they can work to support their families."
For more information, visit the Care 4 Kids website by clicking here.