Care 4 Kids, a state program that helps low to moderate income families pay for child care, has had to restrict its offerings this year, “due to funding limitations,” according to the state Office of Early Childhood (OEC), which runs the program.
“We have had to close priority groups, unfortunately,” said OEC spokesperson Maggie Adair. “It’s not a voluntary choice we made.”
Working families who earn more than 50 percent of the state median income level, some former welfare recipients, and 18- and 19-year-old teen parents are no longer eligible for Care 4 Kids assistance.
“If kids can’t go to preschool or childcare, people will have to leave their jobs and you’re guaranteeing the welfare system is going to grow. That’s a huge problem,” said Bristol Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Michael Suchopar. The club provides services for children in eight school sites and the Early Learning Center at Imagine Nation Museum.
While who qualifies for the program has changed, the income levels for eligibility have not changed. For a family of two, the income level must be below $36,921.28; for a family of three, $45,608.64; for a family of four, $54,296, according to Adair.
State Rep. and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, Southington, said he was also unhappy to hear of the changes.
“But it’s a balancing act. Every cut is on the table,” he said. “Those days of easy answers are gone.”
State Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, Plymouth, said he took an informal survey of employers, asking them if they had a good employee who had to give up the job because of child care, would the employer help out.
“They said yes, but they don’t want a government mandate to do this. They would do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Betts said.
State Rep. Chris Ziogas, D-Bristol, said the problem is that there is “not enough money to go around for everybody” and every program.
“I’d like to amend it because the program serves a purpose and helps the people who are helping themselves,” Ziogas said. “It was meant to help those working poor families and it’s not helping them at this point.”
Suchopar, who is angry about the changes, said he not only sees the new qualifications costing money in the long run, but as just simply wrong.
“When do we make a stand and say, you know what, ‘this is ethically and morally wrong?’ ” he asked. “It’s very, very frightening.”
Eve Britton can be reached at email@example.com or 860-973-1801.