FRANKFORT — Child advocates urged members of a Senate panel Wednesday to find money in Kentucky's cash-strapped budget to reverse cuts to a program that helps poor parents pay for child care.
When the spending cuts take effect in April, many parents will lose their jobs, kids will be placed in dangerous child care settings and some rural child care centers could close, advocates told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
"If they lose their subsidy, they lose their job," said Gerry Roll, of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.
Starting in April, no new applicants will receive child care subsidies. In July, the income guidelines will be tightened so only the poorest families will receive child care subsidies.
About 8,700 families — a third of those receiving the subsidy — will be cut from the program when the maximum allowed income for a family of four drops from $33,075 to $22,050. An additional 2,900 families per month will be denied access to the program because of the moratorium, the state estimates.
The move is expected to save $57.8 million as the Department for Community Based Services tries to erase a projected $86.6 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. The agency oversees child and adult protection and several welfare programs.
The state has relied on a combination of federal stimulus dollars, federal grants and general cost-saving measures to pay for the quickly-expanding program in recent years, but the federal funds have been depleted, officials said last month.
Roll said 78 percent of the 126 children at New Beginnings child care in Perry County receive the state subsidy. If the cuts aren't reversed, New Beginnings will have a $130,000 deficit, he said.
"They are not viable as a business," Roll said. "Perry County will lose its quality child care."
Lakisha Hopson, who teaches at Outer Loop, a child care center in Louisville, said she depended on the child care assistance money to pay for child care when she was in college studying to be a teacher. She needed help again when she recently adopted two toddler boys.
"I couldn't have done it without the child care subsidy," Hopson said.
Because her four biological children received a quality early childhood education, her children are academically on track, Hopson said.
"My daughter is a senior and will graduate," Hopson said. "She has a full ride to college."
Many senators expressed regret that the state had to make the cuts. Others questioned if more could be done to root out fraud in the program.
Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, encouraged the Beshear administration to reverse the cuts and urged lawmakers to remember Wednesday's testimony when it writes the two-year state budget in 2014.