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Three Months After Cuts, Nearly 19 Percent Fewer Kids Using Kentucky's Child Care Subsidy

Kentucky's child care subsidy program for low-income working families has 18.6 percent fewer children participants than a year ago.The drop stems from deep cuts to the state- and federally funded program announced in January because of an $86.6-million budget shortfall and fully implemented in July. The cuts froze new applications in April and made the eligibility requirements more stringent in July. Before, a Kentucky family of four qualified if they made $33,525; now it's $22,350.Through September, 34,562 children are using CCAP, which helps parents who work or go to school pay childcare costs, according to the state Department for Community Based Services, which administers the program.In September 2012, 42,458 children were using CCAP—a 7,896 child drop. The numbers have been declining since July:Kentucky child advocates harshly criticize the cuts, but state officials argue that the Department for Community Based Services simply doesn't have the money. Terry Brooks, executive director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said opponents of the cuts willlobby state legislators to raise eligibility requirements above last year's levels during the 2014 General Assembly session.Even now, parents who've suddenly lost the childcare subsidy call to seek advise from the Louisville advocacy group Community Coordinated Child Care, said Susan Vessels, 4-C's director. "They call to see if they have any options," Vessels said.“What we’re trying to find is what are they doing. Are they quitting their jobs? Are they leaving their little kids at home with their 10-year-olds? And what happens when those 10-year-olds are at school?"

Those options raise economic and safety concerns. The cuts are also hurting Kentucky's efforts to improve education for children before they reach Kindergarten, Vessels said.

“The fear that we have is they’re going to boyfriends houses, or even a lot of well-intentioned grandmothers who set them in front of a TV," Vessels said.Vessels said she thought the number of children dropped from the program would be larger.State officials projected that the eligibility requirement change alone would drop 8,700 children on average per month.The lower number of participants is "fairly consistent" with what the state projected, said a response to questions to the Department for Community Based Services.The number can vary from what the state expected depending on the demographics of CCAP participants—some use the program for full-time care, others for part-time care, the department said.  Some use the program for infant care, which is more expensive.It's important to watch if the actual number of children participating aligns with the state's projections. The cuts were designed to meet a tighter budget—if the cuts aren't meeting the tighter budget, the Child Care Assistance Program still won't be stable.(Image via Shutterstock)

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.