Colorado alone among the 50 states allows individual counties to set income eligibility limits for subsidized child care assistance, one of the most significant components of the work support programs adopted by Congress “to end welfare as we know it” in 1996.
Even so, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP, doesn’t reach about three-fourths of the state’s working poor and generally fails the other fourth’s attempt to escape poverty, according to an I-News analysis of state data, census figures and Colorado-specific research reports, as well as interviews with benefit recipients, policy experts and government officials.
The county system has created broad disparities, in which a family of three could make about $25,000 before being booted off child care assistance in one county, while, in a neighboring county, the same family could make up to $44,000 before losing the benefit.
Most experts say higher education is essential to rising out of poverty. Yet, 11 counties don’t give child-care help to parents attending college. A parent in Boulder County can get child-care subsidies to attend the University of Colorado, but a Larimer County parent gets no help to attend Colorado State University.
“We had to make the choice to serve the poorest of the poor,” said Laura Sartor of Larimer County Human Services. “It was very difficult. It was a very hard choice to make. We did a lot of research and a lot of statistics in determining who we could and couldn’t serve. And unfortunately the student population was one of the populations that were an option so we had to eliminate them and not be able to cover child care anymore.”
State Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said the state is being shortsighted in its support of child-care assistance.
“Post-secondary education especially for single parent households is critical as far as financial security, social mobility, all of those things,” he said. “In my opinion, if we make these investments up front, we’re going to save an awful lot of money for the taxpayer in terms of public assistance programs, in terms of dealing with the criminal justice system and the research bears that out.”
To read the I-News report, please go to http://www.inewsnetwork.org/losing-ground-cliff-effect/ To watch the Rocky Mountain PBS documentary on the cliff effect please go to http://video.rmpbs.org/video/2365025315/