GLASGOW – As the time nears for Congress to finalize how much money to allot for various line items in its budget, Child Care and Development Block Grant funding is being touted as an effective use of assistance to families.
In 2014, President Barack Obama signed bipartisan legislation that comprehensively updated the CCDBG Act for the first time in nearly 20 years, and in 2018, Congress made what Kentucky Youth Advocates calls a “historic increase” in the funding, and KYA and others are optimistic about the potential for another boost. KYA and some of its partners are “facilitating conversations with members of Kentucky's congressional delegation at local child care facilities.”
As part of that effort, a roundtable discussion took place in Glasgow on Thursday afternoon with U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and representatives from KYA, Child Care Advocates of Kentucky and Let's Go Play Academy daycare and local individuals interested in youth advocacy.
Though it is federal money, the Child Care and Development Block Grant funds are administered through the state. Parents may apply for help with child care costs through the Child Care Assistance Program at their local Cabinet for Health and Family Services office, the same place they would apply for the food subsidy program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP or food stamps, or online at https://benefind.ky.gov/. Eligibility is primarily income-based, and the amount of the benefit is also based on income level, Martin said. Among those eligible, some may not have to pay anything for their child care; others may have a co-pay, she said.
Ramsey Morris, owner of four Let's Go Play Academy daycare centers in Kentucky, including the ones in Glasgow and Horse Cave, and a member of the board of directors for Child Care Advocates of Kentucky; Missy Martin, administrator for the academy centers in Glasgow and Horse Cave; and Dawn Heinrich, director of the center in Glasgow spoke about the importance of the program from their business' standpoint and how it works for them.
Martin said at the Glasgow academy, about 50 percent of the parents have made use of CCAP, but at the Horse Cave one, that percentage is almost 90 percent.
“You have to be an all-star center to be able to keep subsidized children,” she said, and that comes with a certain level of requirements for curriculum.
Danielle Bradley, a local parent who also has foster children, said the program has been important to her.
“If I didn't have this funding, I wouldn't be able to work full time …,” she said. “I love doing foster parenting and I love working, and this helps me do both.”
Ben Gies, policy principal for Kentucky Youth Advocates, spoke about how the discussion they'd had illustrates the impact program has on the foster care community, child welfare community and local economy.
“If I were to look at this simply from an economic development [standpoint], it's already a winner, but of course you can't look at it simply as economic development,” Gies said. “You've also got to look at it as this is the next generation of Kentuckians, and what can we do to ensure a good start for the next generation of Kentuckians. And really a lot of that comes from giving the parents the resources that they need to be successful as a parent and then raise good children that will then, in turn, give back to the community like Danielle has.”
One issue that arose in the discussion included the gaps that can occur between work hours, especially for second- and third-shift employees, and school hours and when daycare is available.
When Guthrie entered the Let's Go Play Academy in Glasgow after the meeting, he introduced himself to some of the children and asked their names.
“Can I get a fist bump?” he asked one little one, and two or three followed suit.
A poster board had been folded in half to form a thank-you card that a few of them presented to the congressman along with some smaller cards made with construction or other types of paper.
He asked the children to show him their names on the big card, and they chatted for a few minutes about some of their other art projects before he walked around other parts of the building and outside for a few minutes.
One of the points Ramsey had made during the roundtable was that eligibility is not just based on income.
“You can't get a nickel out of this program unless you're working, unless you go to school or unless you put in 20 hours of community service if you can't find a job,” he said.
After the meeting and tour, the Bowling Green Republican said he was using the events to learn more about the program, and it is the type he supports because of the work or education requirement, and the assistance with child care enables individuals or are doing those things to stay in or move into the workforce.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed some spending bills without any agreed upon spending limits as the appropriations process proceeded. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then agreed upon a budget just before the August recess, Guthrie said.
“So now we'll go back and appropriate to that budget,” he said. “So there's a new top line. … The bill is now in the Senate, so the Senate will send something back within the overall spending limits, so how this program fares is – I assume it'll at least hold its own if not an increase, but we'll know when it comes back from the Senate to the House.”
The federal government's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.