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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Louisiana's child care assistance program to start waiting list July 1

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 5:55 PM

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Louisiana's aid program to help cover the costs of child care will open a waiting list as the program braces for "overwhelming demand" with a limited budget. Eligible families must apply by June 30 to secure a slot, according to an announcement from the state's Department of Education. On July 1, they’ll immediately be added to a waiting list.

The federally funded Child Care Assistance Program offers child care support for low-income working parents or parents in job training or in school. Recent eligibility requirement changes bumped the number of recipients to 18,000 as of last month. "If and when funding becomes available," the program will contact waitlisted households, according to the department. After one year on the wait list, families have to reapply. Waitlisted households will be given 30 days notice before the lists are purged.

Before the changes in income and job training requirements, fewer than 30 percent of families who needed child care assistance were able to receive it. State-level cuts had forced enrollment to plummet from 25,000 children in the program to just 11,000. According to the department, nearly 20,000 children participate in Head Start and more than 31,000 children are enrolled in publicly funded pre-kindergarten.

This month's Kids Count report placed Louisiana among the worst states in the U.S. for child wellbeing, with more than a quarter of Louisiana children in poverty and more than 30 percent living in households that lack secure employment or have a high housing cost burden.

The report also ranks Louisiana 47th in education, pointing out a lack of access for young children, "exacerbating socioeconomic differences in educational achievement" when they enter school. From 2009-2015, more than 4 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the U.S. were not in any school. But Louisiana still has more young children out of school compared to national figures over those years. From 2009-2011, 47 percent of children in the U.S. in that age group were not in school. In Louisiana during those years, 50 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were not in school. From 2013-2015, it was 52 percent nationally, and 53 percent in Louisiana, representing roughly 63,000 children in the state.

"Unfortunately, child care for working families remains a small priority in our state budget,” Louisiana Superintendent John White said in a statement. “As a result, families will now have to either not go to work or find a non-education setting for their children."

To qualify, a family of four must earn up to $39,084 a year. The department says exceptions to the waiting list include families with children experiencing homelessness, families participating in STEP or Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships, families with children in foster care or with children with special needs care. Program information is available on the program's website.

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