‘We cannot hold on:’ Kentucky child care providers plead for more help from lawmakers

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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More than 250 Kentucky child care providers responsible for 150,000 children across the state sent lawmakers a letter Tuesday pleading for more support, saying what’s been proposed in the state budget “is not enough” as their industry is “at risk of collapse.” 

The letter asks lawmakers to pass a supplemental lifeline funding bill in the final days of the 2024 legislative session Friday and Monday.

Such support, the providers said, should “at a minimum:” 

  • Provide routine, direct sustainability payments to child care providers to help keep doors open, stem tuition hikes and prevent wage cuts.
  •  Maintain Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) eligibility at 85% of state median income to prevent thousands of parents from losing access to this aid, which could result in many dropping out of the workforce and withdrawing kids from child care. The current version of the budget hold eligibility at 80%
  • Provide enrollment-based CCAP reimbursements to providers. 

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“Without these crucial supports, there is no chance of survival for many of our child care centers and home-based care providers,” the letter states. “Families will be left with even fewer options that are more expensive, quality will suffer, and many will decide it is better to leave the workforce.” 

Kentucky’s child care industry — which some would like to rebrand under an “early childhood education” umbrella — is about to lose the federal COVID-19 dollars that helped stabilize the industry during the last few years. This leaves many centers to cut pay for their workers, raise tuition for parents, cut services and even close, the Lantern has reported. 

The budget that the legislature passed  includes $42 million in new spending on child care in 2025 and $50 million in 2026. That includes $1.3 million a year to cover the cost of background checks for potential employees and  $1.5 million a year to add a six-month adjustment period for families who are no longer eligible for CCAP.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy previously estimated that $300 million is needed to replace the federal aid that’s ending. The state Department for Community Based Services says the need is closer to $100 million.

In its analysis of the legislature’s budget, the center says: “While all of the policies the budget funds are necessary to support child care providers and the parents they serve, more is needed in light of the coming fiscal cliff, particularly with the loss of quarterly stipends to child care providers previously funded with federal dollars.”

The largest legislative proposal for child care this year, the Horizons Act, died. Its sponsor cited its $300 million price tag as the main reason behind the demise. 

Lawmakers return to Frankfort on Friday and Monday for the last two days of the 2024 session, during which they could pass additional legislation. But they must send Gov. Andy Beshear veto-proof bills at that point, since they will no longer have the ability to override him. 

“An investment in child care is an investment in the commonwealth’s present and future,” the child care letter states. “The Kentucky General Assembly should step up and make that investment now, before you gavel out on April 15. We cannot hold on until the next budget.” 

The letter to Kentucky Lawmakers from Child Care Providers can be found on the Kentucky Lantern website.