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Child care subsidy facing changes, meaning loss of money for many families
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New families seeking subsidies through the state Childcare and Parent Services program will have to meet additional requirements starting Saturday.

Families that already receive subsidies will not face changes until July, according to Reg Griffin, chief communications officer for the Department of Early Care and Learning.

The CAPS program helps families pay child care costs, based on an income scale and the number of children involved.

Griffin said more changes — that would affect most of the families that get the subsidies — were set to take effect Saturday.

However, he said, the closer it got to Oct. 1, “we began to hear from a lot of people — mainly parents who would have lost their child care subsidy.”

He said the department looked to “see if we have any leeway here to put the brakes on.”

Changes set to take effect Saturday will still affect families “but not nearly the impact that it would have had previously,” he said.

To get the child care subsidy, a new family must meet the previous requirements for income levels but also be one of the “priority groups” identified for subsidies. Those include children in the pre-K program through the state lottery, special needs children, federal or state declared disasters, minor parents, those in child protective service, those in Department of Family and Children Services custody, grandparents raising grandchildren and families in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Sheila Missler, director of Joyland day care, said her center had not received information about a delay as of Wednesday afternoon.

She said her center has about 100 families and more than 50 percent get the CAPS subsidy.

Pam Forrester, executive director of Gainesville Academy, said her center was notified about the delay, but she added that parents “are losing their certification (renewals) left and right.”

She said four families have lost their subsidies within the last three months.

“You are going to see a lot of kids who are not going to be in safe environment if this CAPS thing keeps going the way it’s going. And it’s hard-working families. They’re trying,” Forrester said.

Gainesville Academy has 129 or 130 families, Forrester said, and about 40 receive the CAPS subsidy.

Griffin said the department “has given ourselves until July” to make changes in the plan. He said the department would hold public meetings around the state before then to hear comments. Those meetings will be posted on caps.decal.ga.gov, he said.

Griffin noted the program gets about $193 million through the federal Child Care and Development Fund.

In Hall County, about 384 children in 225 families are served. The subsidy to Hall County families is about $29,000 weekly, he said. Those payments are made by the state and do not include the family portion of the payment.

He said CAPS payments are based on:

• the type of child care provider selected (the state pays more for child care learning centers than for family child care learning homes);

• the age of the child (the state pays more for infants than for toddlers and school-age children);

• the type of care (the state pays more for full day care than for before and after care); and

• the zone of the state where the county is (based on the market rate surveys).

Forrester said her center has families who have filed for renewal of subsidies and have not heard. Some families, she said, are contesting the state’s ruling about subsidies.

Forrester said her center’s rates range from $165 a week for infants to $125 a week for 4-year-olds and for “after school kids” who go there in the summer.

Missler and Forrester said if families lose the subsidy, a parent has “to quit their job and stay home and keep their kids.”

Without the subsidy, Forrester added, the choice is to not work or to “go and pick someone who is not licensed” for day care.

Missler said for large families the cost is exorbitant without subsidies. She said it could be $390 a week for three children. She said Joyland had 26 families with siblings at its recent picture day.

If a single parent has those children, she said, day care costs might be more than the parent’s paycheck.

“We’ve been through this before where they put a freeze on it,” she said.

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