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Childcare Advocates Host Forums On Care4Kids Funding 'Crisis' In Bridgeport

Youngsters like these preschoolers might be shut out of their current childcare due to changes to the Care4Kids program. Photo Credit: Submitted
Youngsters like these preschoolers might be shut out of their current childcare due to changes to the Care4Kids program. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Early childcare advocates will host a legislative forum in Bridgeport this week to oppose state childcare eligibility changes they say may mean working parents will have to quit their jobs to care for their children.

An estimated 4,500 Connecticut families — 6,100 children — will be affected by the changes to the Care4Kids program, which now offers financial childcare subsidies to working parents whose income is 50 percent of the state median income or lower, said Catherine Vanicky, director of Honey Bear Learning Center in Stratford.

As of July 1, she said, the cutoff will drop to 30 percent, making many families already using the program ineligible for the funding. It will also affect new families who were counting on the funding as their youngsters reach preschool age.

"This is a crisis,” Vanicky said of the funding. “It’s very important to our families and our programs.”

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, the Bridgeport School Readiness Council and others invite parents and the public to a legislative forum on the issue at 5:30 p.m. June 22 at St. Paul’s Child Development Center, 1475 Noble Ave., Bridgeport.

A second forum slated for Stamford on June 23 has been postponed.

Several state legislators, including Sens. Marilyn Moore (D-22) and Ed Gomes (D-23) and Reps. Andre Baker (D-124), Chris Rosario (D-128) and Ezequiel Santiago (D-130), are scheduled to attend the Bridgeport meeting and others have been invited, Vanicky said.

She hopes many affected parents with attend to explain their personal predicaments.

“Here are their stories,” Vanicky said.

In fall 2014, the federal government made changes to the eligibility requirements for Care4Kids, Vanicky said. While state early childhood leaders supported the changes, which “are focused on quality and more stable care,” she said there was no additional funding to support the changes.

As a result, Connecticut estimates a shortfall of more than $30 million under the 2016-17 state budget. The changes would take place with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

The state Early Childhood Alliance is urging lawmakers to maintain the 50 percent income cutoff until funding is available to support the changes. It also recommends putting new families on a wait list until funding is available.

Those who wish to attend the Bridgeport meeting should RSVP to HB.Advocate@optimum.net.

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