The 2014 state budget process has turned into a ugly duel, pitting the House and Governor against the powerful and intractable Senate. This political intrigue has justifiably captured the attention of the media, but in doing so has obscured other important issues buried within the House and Senate budget proposals.
One issue that has gone largely unreported is the eligibility restrictions for the child care subsidy program.
In order for a family to be successful, children need high-quality early care and parents need the ability to work and provide their family with economic security. The state provides child care subsidies to low- and moderately-low income working families to offset the high cost of child care, which allows parents to maintain employment, while ensuring that their children are in safe, developmentally-appropriate care settings.
In North Carolina, a family of four earning under ~$50,000 per year (75% of state median income) is eligible for the child care subsidy program. However, both the House and Senate budget proposals would limit eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for children 0-5 and 133% of FPL for children 6-12. According to the legislative Fiscal Research Division, this change would mean that about 12,000 children who received child care subsidies in 2013 would no longer be eligible for the program.1
Legislators in favor of this change believe that we should limit child care subsidies to only the poorest families. In reality, this change will simply keep many working families from achieving economic self-sufficiency by forcing parents to leave good jobs, because they can’t afford child care. In our modern economy, child care subsidies are a critical piece of the economic security puzzle.
1 As reported verbally in a presentation to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.