Georgia’s new and improved plan to expand access to quality child care for families earning low incomes took effect in June. The state’s 2017 budget for the fiscal year that starts this month, however, is $103 million short of what’s needed to implement the plan according to a new GBPI analysis. If this wide funding gap is closed, the state’s plan could be great news for working parents, children and Georgia’s economy.
Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning devised a new plan for child care assistance so the state can continue to receive federal funding from the Child Care and Development Block Grant. This grant provides most of the money for child care assistance in Georgia. The federal law that authorizes the grant encourages states to expand access to assistance for families with low incomes.
The state’s proposal heeds federal urging by:
- Increasing income eligibility limits so more families that earn low incomes will be able to qualify for state help with high child care costs
- Lowering family co-payments so they are not a barrier to families who need child care assistance
- Calling for higher payments to child care providers so more families who receive help will be able to send their children to child care centers and homes where quality early education is available
Georgia officials will need to allocate $103 million more for the program to avoid shrinking the enrollment reach of the program by nearly 17,000 children. To do that state officials will need to find more money in the state budget, shift money from another federal program designed to help low-income families or some mix of both.
Left underfunded, the loss of care options for thousands of children threatens to exacerbate existing service gaps. Georgia assists about 50,000 children per week with care and that represents only a fraction of the 682,000 children under 13 years old in low-income working families likely to need quality child care.
New funding for child care assistance in Georgia promises a boost to the state’s workforce and economy. Many parents who earn low incomes are not able to afford the high cost of quality child care in Georgia. Child care assistance can help Georgia parents contribute more to the workforce and to their own finances by allowing them to work with fewer child care-related disruptions, work more hours, stay employed longer and earn more income.
It is in the best interest of the state to do all that it can to ensure that families get access to this critical assistance.
Read our full report for more information.