September 1, 2004
Families entitled to help paying for child care will be put on a waiting list beginning today, unless they earn less than $6.05 an hour, are current or recent welfare recipients, or have an open Child Protective Services case.
The reinstatement of the child care waiting list, which last year reached more than 7,200 children, is based on projections by the state Department of Economic Security that show increasing caseloads will consume all of the program’s funding by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
Those already receiving child care subsidy will continue to receive it, including several thousand children who had been on the waiting list last year. The working poor who are newly eligible for the subsidy, however, will be turned away, as well as families in homeless or domestic violence shelters, and teen parents enrolled in school.
"It’s devastating for families," said Judy Walruff, a vice president for Children’s Action Alliance. "We’re talking about very low-income people who are trying to keep their jobs and keep their kids in reliable care."
Patricia Daniels receives the subsidy for after-school care for her three children, ages 5, 6 and 11, at Sunrise Preschool in Chandler. She also works there.
Without it, Daniels figures child care would consume about $1,000 of her $1,200 monthly income.
An estimated $72 million was needed to eliminate last year’s waiting list and the Legislature appropriated $52 million.
During budget negotiations earlier this year, DES officials said growing CPS and welfare caseloads were fueling the program’s growth, with an 18 percent increase in CPS families needing child care assistance and 16 percent growth in welfare recipients.
The subsidy program is designed for families earning up to 165 percent of the poverty level — or $25,855 a year for a family of three — whose children are cared for on a sliding-scale co-payment of up to $10 a week per child. The cap means only those at or below 100 percent of the poverty level will be helped.
• To find out if you qualify for child care assistance or to become a child care provider, call the state Department of Economic Security child care central office, (602) 542-4248, or one of the neighborhood offices: Mesa, (480) 834-3343; Tempe-Mesa, (480) 831-1070; Apache Junction, (480) 983-0320, extension 6235. Or go to www.de.state.az.us/childcare/