Social Services expands child care program

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By the numbers

Family size Monthly income

2 $2,587

3 $3.219

4 $3,872

5 $4,524

6 $5,177

7 $5,829

8 $6,482

9 $7,134

— There are people to help, and if Moffat County Social Services can help more of them, then it will work to help more of them, Director Marie Peer said.

At the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday, the commissioners approved Peer's request to expand child care benefits from families at or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 225 percent.

The commission expanded coverage from 185 percent to 200 percent in June, when the federal fiscal year started and Social Services had more dollars for child care than the fiscal year before.

"This means more people can qualify for child care," Peer told the commission. "To help people stay sufficient, it's very important that we can help them with child care."

Low-income child care is for people who are working but still live close to the poverty line, Peer said.

The program helps parents pay for their children's enrollment in certain child care centers so the parents are able to work and run errands.

Child care centers are limited to those licensed by the state and exempt child care practitioners who only watch one family, such as someone who watches their neighbor's children, Peer said.

With the eligibility expansion, there still should be enough money in the program to accept new applicants, Peer said.

The program received $220,000 for this fiscal year from July 2007 to June 2008, Peer said. She estimated 75 percent to 85 percent of that money would be spent if the program stays at current levels.

The number of applicants to the program dropped this past year, she added.

In October 2006, 57 families applied for the program, compared to 35 families in October 2007.

Peer attributes the drop in applicants to a new state law requiring child care providers to pay for and submit their fingerprints to state law enforcement.

It's not that providers were worried about background checks, Peer said. Exempt child care providers, the neighbors watching one family, most likely didn't want to go through a complicated process they were required to pay for.

Because providers left the system, so did benefit applicants, Peer said.

At first, Social Services officials expected people who had previously used exempt providers to start using more expensive, established child care centers, Peer added. That would reduce the number of families that Social Services could afford.

Since the department has not seen that, officials decided to seek greater eligibility to make use of the money.

It's important everyone who might be eligible for benefits apply for the program, Peer said.

"It will help them economically," she said. "We will provide part of their care, and that leaves them more money to make ends meet."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

Families are eligible for child care benefits if they make as much or less than the following monthly incomes:

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