(AP) — Thousands of low-income families in Kentucky will stop receiving state assistance with child care costs later this year.
The Kentucky Department of Community Based Services made the announcement Thursday. According to media reports, the agency also said it would no longer take new applicants to the program or pay subsidies to families caring for abused or neglected children beginning in April.
The agency cited a budget shortfall for the decisions. Audrey Tayse Haynes, who is secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, says the agency has a projected shortfall of $86.6 million, fueled by cuts in federal and state funding and larger caseloads.
The new rules limiting who is eligible for the child care assistance program go into effect in July. Income requirements now set at $33,075 for a family of four will be reduced to $22,050 for a family of four.
"This is really tough and these are not the kinds of decisions that we want to be making," Haynes said. "Any reduction in services impacts a child's life."
Kentucky Youth Advocates Director Terry Brooks said the changes would have a negative impact.
"We also know that quality child care is not a luxury for working low income families — rather, it is an essential tool to boost their children's future outcomes in education and health. Now those — and other key supports — are diminished."
Teresa James, commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services, said she has similar worries.
"I am very concerned that we are going to be taking working parents and make them unable to work because they are not able to find child care," James said.
The state estimates that more than 10,000 children could be impacted by the changes.
Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said he was briefed on the cuts Tuesday and he and others would look for a way to restore funding for the programs.
"It's going to have a devastating effect on those folks that need that money to go back to work," Lee said. "If they don't have this money, they are not going to be able to find child care and will likely have to quit their jobs and stay home and take care of their kids, which means they will go back on welfare."