By JAMES BROWN
Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo says she’s reducing the fee that some low-income families pay for child care.
At a press conference yesterday, she said she instructed the county Department of Social Services to lower that fee, which is a percentage of the cost of care, from 35 percent to 25 percent. The move, she said, will save about 2,200 low-income families an average of $800 per year.
“That money can be used for savings, it can be used to put food on the table, it can be used for housing, any way the family chooses to really enhance the quality of life for our children and families,” said Dinolfo.
Dinolfo, who is running for re-election this fall, said the reduction will take effect August 5 and will be funded by about $1.7 million in unspent funds in the county budget.
County spokesman Jesse Sleezer said it’ll affect roughly 4,600 of the 7,500 children whose care is funded by this program. It’ll most benefit parents who are trying to secure or advance employment, he said.
Families are eligible for child day care subsidies if they earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is set at $25,750 for a family of four. The parent fee is based on household income exceeding the poverty level.
The Children’s Agenda, an advocacy group focused on policies affecting children, says in a statement that the fee reduction “is an important step in the right direction of affordability and quality care. ”
The organization says it’s been urging the county to lower the rate and would like to see the Dinolfo administration lower it even further. It points to a recent blog post from its policy director, Pete Nabozny, about the difference in fees paid by Monroe County parents and Livingston County parents, who pay 10 percent of the cost of care.
Nabozny created a hypothetical example of two families living in the Caledonia-Mumford School District, which covers parts of both county. Each imaginary family earns $40,000 a year and has a 1-year-old and a 3- year-old child enrolled in subsidized day care. The Monroe County family has to pay $3,745 more each year in parent fees than the Livingston County family, the post says.
The 35 percent rate that Monroe County currently charges is the highest allowable by law, Nabozny’s post says.
“Higher parent co-pays defeat the purpose of assisting low-income working families with child care, which is to help them stay in the workforce and improve family income,” the Children’s Agenda’s statement says. “Some families eligible for assistance decline because they can’t afford the co-pay and choose to either leave the workforce entirely or place their children in less expensive, potentially substandard care.”
James Brown is a reporter for WXXI News. CITY staff writer Jeremy Moule contributed to this report.