Childcare funding is level

A state program that helps low-income families afford childcare is not slated for an increase in the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. That could be a further stress on a program that is already stretched thin due to a number of factors — including the high number of young children in state custody.
Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 does not include more money for the childcare financial assistance program.
The program, operated through the Department for Children and Families’ child development division, provides some degree of financial support for childcare for 8,500 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years.
Families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level can qualify for the childcare subsidy, which also requires that parents be engaged in work or educational activity.
Some people involved fear that without a budget increase, the state would start using a waiting list, meaning families that are eligible would need to wait until there is an opening before they can get the subsidy.
DCF Deputy Commissioner Reeva Murphy, who oversees the division, said a waiting list would be the last resort. The department likely would seek to move money from other programs or to get an increase under the midyear budget adjustment before implementing a waitlist, she said.
“It is not our preference, and we would not do that without making an attempt to fully fund what we needed,” Murphy said.
She also said trend lines indicate that the demand for the program may not increase as much in the near future as it has in the past. The department is “guardedly optimistic” that the program will be able to operate within a level-funded budget, she said.

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