A state push to make quality child care more affordable for about 15,000 low-income families takes effect this month, officials said Wednesday morning.
The changes will trim weekly out-of-pocket expenses for most low-income families by 60 percent, liberalizes eligibility rules and will be financed through a federal grant.
“The increase in funding and simplification of the application process greatly benefits families with parents that work or are in school that need help to afford quality child care,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in a prepared statement.
The program is called the Child Care Assistance Program.
It helps pay for the cost of child care for children from birth to 4 years old while parents are at work, school or in job training.
The new policy stems in part from a 2012 state law that is overhauling Louisiana’s child care system, which was often criticized as a costly, fragmented setup with uneven quality.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the changes in August.
They were earlier recommended by the Early Childhood Advisory Council.
Enrollment in CCAP shrunk from about 40,000 to 15,000 amid budget cuts during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
Under the previous rules, the aid averaged just 28 percent of what the state provided for prekindergarten programs, which lead to low teacher pay and problems retaining trained educators.
Families also lost their benefits immediately if a parent lost his or her job.
The new rules will increase stipends by up to 250 percent and end the policy that stops benefits if a parent or guardian loses their job.
Families will be eligible for the aid for at least one year regardless of employment and other life changes.
In addition, families will be able to apply for the assistance and check the status of their applications online.
Until now they had to rely on the mail to do so.
Families classified as living in poverty will not face any co-pay, as they do now.