Colorado Capitol

Dems introduce bill to make low-income child care more accessible in Colorado

AURORA | Democrat legislators are proposing three different bills to make child care more accessible in Colorado. The bills come on the heels of a 2013 report that ranked Colorado as the fifth least affordable state for child care when compared to the state median income.

“Daycare in Colorado is higher than the cost of in-state tuition in a four-year college,” said Colorado Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, at a town hall meeting March 20.

The report, done by Child Care Aware of America, found that infant care was the most expensive in the state, ranging from $8,693 to $12,736 annually. Those costs decrease once children reach 4 or 5 years old.

One of the provisions of House Bill 1317 would increase the period of time a parent can use the state’s low-income childcare assistance program (CCAP) from 30 to 60 days if they lose their job while participating in the program. The bill would also allow for parents to keep children in CCAP even when their income increases slightly beyond the entry income eligibility.

Bill Jaeger, vice president of early childhood initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said the state’s current CCAP income eligibility requirements keep parents from seeking better jobs and taking raises.

“That’s not good for a family, and that’s not good for the economy,” he said.

To qualify for CCAP in Arapahoe County, a family of two must make less than $2,391 per month. A family of six must make less than $4,870 per month. CCAP covers child care tuition for children from birth to age 12. It doesn’t cover registration, activity fees, or transportation.

Senate Bill 3 would also address the issue of when parents lose affordable childcare after receiving a minor increase in pay.  The bill calls that the “cliff effect,” when parents are no longer eligible to receive CCAP, but the increase in their wages is still not enough to cover childcare without the assistance.

Jaeger said SB 3 would create a pilot program in 10 Colorado counties where families would be able to go over the income cliff, while keeping CCAP and finding ways to tier up their co-pay.

HB 1072 would close a tax loophole that prevents families making under $25,000 annually from receiving the state income tax credit for child care expenses.

Gretchen Davidson, Executive Director for the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council, said 32 percent of Arapahoe County’s children are in licensed child care programs, but that 60 percent of families have both adults working outside of the home.

She said families whose children aren’t in licensed in programs are likely being taken care of by relatives and friends.

Pamela Schoenrock, an administrator for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and CCAP, said Arapahoe County has 1,630 households using CCAP, and that there is currently no waiting list for the program.

Frank Omair, owner of two child care centers in Aurora, said parents who want to use CCAP assistance at his center sometimes lose job opportunities while waiting for their applications to be approved. He said the process can take anywhere from two weeks to a month.

“It’s been a struggle to deal with parents being approved by the county. There’s a lot of red tape,” he said.

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