Thousands of families lose child care subsidies under new state budget

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A change in the way the state determines eligibility for child care subsidies is affecting thousands of low-income families across North Carolina.

A change in the way the state determines eligibility for child care subsidies is affecting thousands of low-income families across North Carolina.

The new law took effect Oct. 1 after state legislators passed the budget to open up space for disadvantaged children under the age of six on a wait list to get help.

However, according to the Fiscal Research Division, the move removed funding for nearly 12,000 school-aged children.

Under the old system, all children under 13 qualified if their parents earned less than 75 percent of the state median income or about $50,244 for a family of four.

The new program is now tied to the federal poverty level.

Currently, a family of four with children under the age of six can't make more than $47,700.

It's even stricter for children ages six to 12; The income for a family of four can't exceed $31,721.

The state budget also increased the co-pay families need to contribute to receive the subsidy to 10 percent of their monthly income.

"What you're seeing happen as a result of this policy change is that many families, working families who are trying to find a safe and appropriate placement for their children are no longer able to do that," said Rob Thompson with NC Child.

Gaynella Hamlett is a single mother barely getting by, earning just enough to pay the bills.

When she recently tried to re-certify her child care subsidies for her two children, she was told her oldest son no longer qualified.

She also learned her $185 co-pay for both children would increase to $221 for just one child.

"The reason for having a voucher is to help you so you can work and to pay your bills, but if you're finding this out, and you have no one else to keep your child, that means you can't work, and you can't provide for your child," she said.

Hamlett is now faced with either cutting her hours at work or coming up with more money to pay for child care.

"I don't know what's going to happen, she said. "It's just really going to put everything in a bind."

LINK TO SEE WHO QUALIFIES: http://ncchildcare.nc.gov/parents/pr_sn2_diq.asp.

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