Daycare subsidies safe — for now
Worried parents who receive childcare subsidies can breathe a sigh of relief — at least until Oct. 31.
Many parents have been worried that the government shutdown would result in cutting the $250,000 in childcare subsidies that flow through the county each month, causing many families to not be able to afford daycare.
However, since the state is able to lean on Smart Start funding, Haywood County’s subsidy funds will continue to cover daycare costs unchanged until Oct. 31.
Low-income, working parents can receive a monthly subsidy to offset the cost of childcare, an amount that varies depending on income level.
Smart Start is a public-private initiative that provides early education funding to North Carolina counties. Smart Start funds are used to improve the quality of childcare, make childcare more affordable and accessible and to provide access to health services and offer family support.
Vickie Ansley, deputy director for programs at Southwestern Child Development Commission, said she was pleased the subsidies would continue.
“I’m calling childcare providers right now, and I’ve never seen people so happy,” Ansley said. “We’re all excited that the care is extended through October. It’s the best possible solution for children and the parents and the childcare providers. I just hope November is not affected.”
While Smart Start will be supplementing a large portion of daycare subsidy funds, Ansley said it was too soon to determine how much Smart Start funding would be used.
“Things change every month, so we won’t know the exact amount used for the month of October until the middle of November.”
Ira Dove, Haywood County Department of Social Services director, said he had received confirmed calculations from Shelia Hoyle, executive director at Southwestern Child Development Commission.
“Based on the numbers, Shelia Hoyle determined how many days of childcare subsidy they could pay for in Haywood County, and she came up with through the end of month,” Dove said.
Though relieved, Ansley said she was unsure what would happen if the shutdown continued past Oct. 31.
“November is pretty much out of everyone’s hands,” Ansley said. “It depends on what happens with the federal government. Everybody is just waiting to see.”
Waiting and worrying
Dove said 392 families receive daycare subsidies in Haywood County.
“We hope that this situation where parents will not have subsidy can be avoided,” Dove said. “We know how critical it is to keep parents at work.”
Minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If an individual works full time at that wage, their monthly income is $1,160 before taxes. Monthly childcare costs are about $600.
Should the government shutdown continue toward the end of the month, Dove said the department would be notifying parents of any changes 10 days in advance.
“If a (federal government) budget deal is reached, we don’t need to send out notices,” Dove said. “Since we’re funded through October, we’re not planning to send those notices until we see what happens to budget. We need to be accurate before send we send anything.”
Now for parents, it’s just a waiting game to see how long the shutdown and subsidies will last.
Traci Sanford of Canton, a mother of a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, said daycare subsidies were essential for her to be able to go to work as a waitress.
“I'm only able to work a day shift job because I don't have much help,” Sanford said. “Also with everything else going on, who makes the money to pay the high cost of daycare without help? I would basically being working just to pay for my kids to go to school. And leaves me with no money to pay all my other bills.”
With her daycare subsidy, Sanford said she pays $62 a month to have both of her children in daycare.
“Without that, it would cost like $1,200,” she said. “It’s really ridiculous. What I’m hoping for is they will get their stuff together. If not, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Jessica Russell echoed her sentiments.
“If I lost my subsidy, it would take almost my entire month’s pay just to cover daycare,” she said. “I need daycare for my 3-year-old so I can work — but working a full time job just to pay for daycare would not be feasible. First they target WIC, now subsidy? Stop hurting our children.”
Not losing hope
Even though the subsidies will remain unchanged temporarily, the future of daycare subsidies is still unknown.
Fortunately however, subsidy funding for children with developmental needs and children receiving welfare services will be available through December.
“There is a much smaller pot of money to allow those children to continue on service for daycare in November and December,” Dove said. “I’m grateful we will be able to continue the services with those children, because they are the most vulnerable children who are receiving most enhanced services through the daycare.”
The Work First programs are still suspended and checks are still being held due to the government shutdown. However, Work First applications are currently being accepted, Dove said.
“There’s not going to be any assistance now because they’ve shut off the assistance,” Dove said. “But Work First people can come in and apply. That way it at least preserves the date they can apply."