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Extra funding ends waiting list for El Paso County child care program

June 13, 2018 Updated: June 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm
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FILE - At The Hangout daycare, Tasha Fickas (center) gives affordable daycare to low income families. She plays with some of the kids at the daycare on Tuesday, November 20, 2012.. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

A waiting list for Colorado Child Care Assistance Program subsidies in El Paso County will be lifted by Monday, along with several restrictions on who can apply for the program.

The waiting list's demise comes after state lawmakers approved millions of dollars in extra funding for the cash-strapped program, which serves low-income families across the state, including thousands of people in El Paso County.

It also ends a months-long ordeal that kept hundreds of families from accessing subsidies viewed as critical for helping parents keep their jobs.

"This is very significant for the citizens of El Paso County," said Julie Krow, the El Paso County Department of Human Services' executive director. "This really allows people struggling financially to go back to work. And at the same time, they know their children are in a safe place during the day while they're working."

The statewide program helps pay for residents' child care, though enrolled families are usually expected to contribute a copay. As of Wednesday, 1,701 families with 2,815 children received that financial assistance in El Paso County.

But budget shortfalls left many families unable to access those benefits.

In March 2017, El Paso County officials made eligibility changes that included barring parents who were in school from accessing the program, affecting about 200 enrollees at that time.

And on Jan. 1, the county imposed a waiting list on new enrollees amid a $2.5 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Since then, 503 families and 802 children had been placed on the waiting list, Krow said.

She credited the Joint Budget Committee's staff, as well as state Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, and state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, for spearheading efforts to boost the program's funding.

As a result, El Paso County is expected to receive roughly $3.1 million extra during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The additional money will bring the county's budget for the program to $16.7 million, Krow said.

"We're going to go back to business as usual," Krow said.

Along with the waiting list being axed, parents going to school once again can enroll in the program, Krow said.

Parents whose children are enrolled through the program will not lose the benefit if they become unemployed as long as they are searching for a new job.

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