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- Sue Birch, community representative
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Steamboat Springs Effective Friday, fewer Routt County families will be eligible for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program because the income limit will decrease from 225 percent of the federal poverty line to 130 percent.
The decision, made last week by the Routt County Board of Commissioners, results from a reduction in federal funding.
We’re not blaming the commissioners, who have had to make unenviable fiscal decisions in a recessionary economy, but we do acknowledge that an important safety net for local parents is getting increasingly thinner.
Under the current eligibility, 29 children in 22 families receive child care services. Vickie Clark, director of Routt’s Department of Human Services, said reducing the eligibility would reduce the number of children and families receiving services to 14 and 11, respectively.
Those aren’t huge numbers, but child care in Routt County continues to be a challenge for low- and middle-income families.
Indeed, other counties across the state also have had to lower eligibility for child care assistance.
Routt County’s Colorado Child Care Assistance Program allocation for 2010-11 was $181,000, which includes state and county money. At that level, the program doesn’t even have enough money to help every Routt family at 130 percent of the federal poverty line. Clark has asked the commissioners for about $165,000 from county reserves to fund every family that qualifies.
“It’s one of those deals where this would be them going hugely above and beyond what they are obligated or mandated to do because we only get that $181,000,” she said Tuesday. “… If they do this, something has to give. I think their hearts would write me a check tomorrow, but they’ve got a whole county in which they have to stay within their resources.”
We know the county faces fiscal challenges, but we hope commissioners don’t close the door on that request when they start budget conversations next week.
We also hope that others in the community see the value of affordable child care — it’s an issue that goes beyond dollars and cents.
If child care is unattainable, parents sometimes find themselves pulled from the workplace. That makes it even more difficult for them to support their families. That also can mean increases in other aid services for families, and it can put additional emotional strain on families during an already challenging recession.
But this also presents an opportunity for members of the community to pitch in.
The Colorado Child Care Contribution Tax Credit allows people who donate money for child care to get a 50 percent state tax credit if they donate by Dec. 31, said Tami Havener, executive director of the Family Development Center in Steamboat.
That applies to “any donations that are made to help fund child care, whether that’s tuition assistance for a family or for books or materials or for quality improvements,” she said.
Havener noted that a credit is different from a deduction. For example, a person who donates $1,000, she said, could then take $500 off what he or she owes the state for 2010.
If the child care organization is a nonprofit group, the donor also would be eligible for federal tax deductions.
Donations eligible for the state credit and federal deductions include any for nonprofit child care centers and money given to nonprofit groups such as Yampa Valley Community Foundation and earmarked for child care.
First Impressions provides some child care scholarships for low- and middle-income families, but the agency is not a nonprofit group.
Those who want to donate to First Impressions still can do so and get the state tax credit, Havener said.
Donations to First Impressions can be made directly or through Routt County United Way.
We encourage the community to see the value of helping struggling neighbors with child care — and to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with doing so.