At her daycare near Greenville Road, Hattie Waddell only charges parents $95 a week to watch their kids for 40 or 50 hours and feed them two meals every day.
This is exactly the amount most of her clients — who earn minimum wage, or something near it — receive in government subsidies. This way they don’t have to pay extra from their own pockets.
But the state is making a series of cuts to the subsidies, starting Monday. After this summer, only the poorest clients will remain eligible; the rest will lose their subsidies after whenever their yearly renewal term ends.
Some of Waddell’s clients — and scores of other single parents in the southern Pennyrile — will likely quit their jobs. Waddell speculated that many will go on welfare.
“They can’t afford to pay childcare, because they make about that much a week,” she said.
Parents and daycare owners have lobbied local legislators for help, but the decision rests on Gov. Steve Beshear and the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The state’s first measure is a freeze on new applications for assistance. It will start Monday and may last until mid-2014. The second measure is a change in the eligibility bracket, from 150 percent of the poverty level — $33,075 for a family of four — to 100 percent of the poverty level, which comes out to $22,050 for a family of four. The state has estimated it will save about $57.8 million total.
State Rep. Myron Dossett, R-Pembroke, said the state instituted this program amidst the welfare reforms of the 1990s. More than most other social safety nets, it represents an investment, he said. It delivers returns because the beneficiaries can earn wages and pay taxes.
It “disturbs” him that the state is cutting this program before cutting others.
“The governor does have the ability to move the money around — or the secretary of that particular cabinet,” Dossett said. “We don’t want people to have to give up their jobs.”
Officials for the cabinet told the Lexington Herald-Leader that 24,400 families and 48,000 receive assistance money. Families receive an average of $376 a month.
Janice Diuguid, who runs A Kid’s Place on North Main Street, said nearly all of the 34 kids she cares for depend on the state’s subsidies. In general, parents who pay out-of-pocket have both a mother and father at home, she said. Most of those who need assistance are single mothers.
She doesn’t see the records showing how much they make, so she doesn’t know which parents will lose their assistance. But she fears these cuts will force her to shutter the business and lay off her staff.
“That’s going to be 11 people that could possibly be without a job,” she said.
Stephanie Hancock, director of Let’s Go Play Academy in Cadiz, cares for about 55 children, including about 19 on state assistance.
A common profile is the parent who works 40 hours a week at TransCraft, welding parts for trailers. Soon she may not have a place to take her 2- and 4-year-old children during the workday.
The academy also receives federal food assistance because more than a quarter of its clients have low incomes. If those parents have to leave, the academy may no longer qualify for the food program.
State Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said the legislature could only restore this funding by reopening the entire state budget. And legislators are no longer in session.
So Yonts believes it will remain in Beshear’s hands until January, when the General Assembly writes a new budget that will take effect in July 2014.
He understands the drawbacks of cutting this particular program. But he also gave a nod to the difficulties inherent in allocating money.
“If you were to hit somebody else, there would be other people complaining,” he said.
Reach Nick Tabor at 270-887-3231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.