California to raise income limits to allow more children to qualify for subsidized child care

Alison Yin for EdSource Today

The 2017-18 budget reflects a long-sought change to the income eligibility requirements for subsidized child care, allowing more families access to the subsidy.

The budget approved Thursday by the state Legislature responds to a long-sought demand from child care advocates that California raise the income eligibility limit so more low-income families qualify for subsidized child care.

The budget for the coming fiscal year requires the Department of Finance to calculate income eligibility for subsidized child care based on the most recent state median income information. It will also adjust that number based on family size.

Families in California are eligible for state-subsidized child care if their total family income does not exceed a certain percentage of the state median income. However, California has not increased its income eligibility limit since the 2007-08 fiscal year.

“To get this priority win is really gratifying,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization based in Oakland. Lempert said more than 500 organizations joined forces in the final stages of the state budget process to push for child care access for more working families, which the changes approved by the Legislature last week will provide. “We really are thrilled that the Legislature and administration heeded that call,” Lempert said.

In May, advocates also called for a continuous 12-month eligibility period so parents whose income increased would not have to reapply within the same year and risk losing access to the child care benefit. The Legislature has also agreed to that change. 

Under the previous law, families had to report any changes in income within five days and provide documents to reflect those changes….

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