Child-care funds to be discussed

County taking public input on proposed cuts

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— Options for correcting a funding shortfall in Routt County's Child Care Assistance Program will be presented today at a public hearing before county commissioners.

There is an estimated deficit of more than $110,000 for the program, which subsidizes child care for 59 income-eligible families.

To balance the deficit, the eligibility threshold -- the highest level of income a family can have and still qualify for assistance -- must be lowered, Routt County Human Services Director Bob White said.

"As much as we hate to have to reduce the eligibility benefits, that's our reality," White said.

The meeting is at 3 p.m. During the meeting, the issue will be discussed and families and child-care providers will have a chance to tell commissioners their thoughts.

The current income threshold for eligibility is 225 percent of the poverty level. That costs about $430,000.

Most of the county's funding for child-care assistance comes through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, which operates on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, so final numbers for this year's allocations aren't in yet. But White said he expects to receive no more than $317,000 from the state this year.

Because of the deficit, White is recommending that the threshold be lowered in two stages to give families time to consider their options and to give the department time to determine if the cuts are enough.

First, the threshold will be lowered from 225 percent to 200 percent of poverty level on Oct. 1, and then to 185 percent on Jan. 1.

"I think it's best for families if we step this down (in stages) so that they've got some time to consider their alternatives," White said.

The threshold might need to be cut to 175 percent. At that level, 25 families and 37 children in the county would no longer be eligible for assistance.

Whatever the case, the county will dip into social services reserves for about $50,000. It is the first time that action has been taken since 1985, when White came to the department.

"The hardship of my recommendation is that this involves dipping into our social service reserves to the tune of maybe $50,000, maybe $60,000," White said.

"And we don't take that lightly."

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