Commissioners amend child-care guidelines

County sets eligibility at 180 percent of poverty level

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The Moffat County commissioners voted Tuesday to restore the eligibility level for child-care assistance to 180 percent of poverty and for parents enrolled in higher education courses.

"That's good news for six of my day care moms," said Craig child care provider Paula Reed.

The change, which will be effective Jan. 1, is a result of an increase in the county's child-care allocation. The county has about $470,000 to spend on child-care assistance, said Marie Peer, Social Services director.

However, Peer said she didn't know how confident she was that the county won't need to lower the eligibility rate again during the next fiscal year. But because the county has the money to raise the level now, she said it would be "unconscionable" not to provide needy families with the help.

The commissioners agreed.

"If we have the money available, we should be providing that service," Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said.

Moffat County pays the same average child care rate as Denver County.

Peer had hoped to increase Moffat County's allocation by applying for a rural resort designation. But the state rejected Peer's application and the county remained designated as rural, receiving a lower child care allocation than counties with rural resort designations.

Garfield and Clear Creek Counties are both designated as rural resorts, a classification that puzzles Peer because neither county has major resorts. She said she intends to challenge the state's designations for those counties.

New applicants for assistance will be placed on a waiting list, introduced during the last round of cuts, in an effort to keep the county's spending of its allocation under control.

The average child-care assistance client participates in the program for six to seven months, Peer said.

In November, the commissioners cut the eligibility level from 185 percent of poverty to 145 percent, because Social Services was overspending its child-care allocation. They cut it again in February and ended assistance for clients in education programs, because Social Services still overspent its allocation.

Four clients lost child care assistance the second time the commissioners cut eligibility, and three clients lost assistance when the commissioners cut it for education.

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