Schmudget Blog

Governor preserves child care subsidies but limits access and reduces income support

Posted by kimj at Mar 07, 2011 08:05 PM |

Governor Gregoire recently reversed her decision to reduce eligibility for child care subsidies to 82 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($1,266/month for a family of three), which was originally scheduled to go into effect on February 1, 2011. The Governor’s agreement to not implement this cut meant that families up to 175 percent FPL ($2,670/month for a family of three) would continue to be eligible for child care support, preserving access to child care for 1,600 Washington families per month.

While this was a laudable decision, we noted that preserving the child care program would likely result in alternative cuts that would impact low-income families in other ways.  As predicted, this is indeed the case. This week, the executive branch shared its decision on alternative reductions that will be made to achieve the $12.5 million in savings that would have been achieved with the limit on eligibility for child care work supports.

Alternate reductions include*:

Capped enrollment for child care

Under the alternative cuts, low-income families will still face restrictions on access to child care subsidies. Families receiving TANF benefits and families of children with special needs will receive priority access to child care support. But remaining families with incomes at or below 175 percent FPL will receive child care benefits on a “first come, first served” basis until the program reaches an enrollment cap of 35,200 cases.  Once the cap has been reached, a waiting list will be applied.  This will mean that many low-income families will not have access to child care subsidies which may impact their ability to work.

Increased co-payments for child care

Families who currently pay a $60 co-payment for child care support will see that increase to $65. An additional increase is made to the sliding scale co-payment for families with incomes above 137.5 percent FPL. This change is anticipated to impact about 20,148 families.

Reduced income support

Families with more than five members will experience an additional cash grant reduction (all recipients had their cash grants reduced by 15 percent in February). The amount of the grant reduction will depend on family size- the larger the family size, the larger the grant reduction. The figure below shows the reduction families will face based on their size. This change is expected to impact about 1,840 families.


TANF cumulative grant cut

Aligned participation with federal requirements

Federal rules allow states to require only 20 hours per week of participation in work or work-like activities for single parents with children under the age of six. Washington’s WorkFirst program, however, requires full-time participation. Participation requirements will be aligned with the federal rules, reducing child care costs for families who choose to not participate full time.

These reductions go into effect this month, with the exception of the reduction to the cash grant for families with more than five members, which will go into effect in May.

While it is commendable that the Governor spared child care support for low-income families, it came at a price. Many families will feel the impact of reduced income assistance and limited access to child care support that allows them to remain in the workforce. 

 * Source: Department of Social and Health Services, “Alternate TANF Reductions”, March 4, 2011.

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