- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A last-minute plan to increase child care assistance for poor working families has collapsed because it wasn’t enacted by state officials before former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration ended in early December.

Beshear is urging Kentucky’s new governor, Matt Bevin, to address the problem, The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1O4t2bN) reported. Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the Bevin administration is reviewing the matter but hasn’t reached a decision.

Beshear announced Dec. 3 that his administration planned to use about $15 million in surplus federal money to boost payments to centers that accept children whose parents qualify for help through the Kentucky Child Care Assistance Program. The higher payments were supposed to begin Jan. 1.

But the new plan, to be enacted through emergency regulations, wasn’t filed by cabinet staff until Dec. 9, the day after Bevin became governor, the newspaper reported. As a result, the new regulations are not valid, according to a letter issued that day by the Legislative Research Commission, which is responsible for accepting such regulations.

Child care advocates say they are shocked by the developments.

“I am absolutely beyond disappointed and angry,” said Janet Masterson, executive director of Community Coordinated Child Care, a Louisville advocacy organization. “There will be a lot of people up in arms if they don’t have some sort of plan.”

In a statement Monday, Beshear said the regulations weren’t filed on time because of a staff error but urged Bevin to try to deal with the problem.

“It’s my hope that his administration, like mine, understands the need to increase access and affordability of high-quality child care for our children and will take action,” Beshear said in the statement.

Bevin could refile the plan under his signature.

Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of Health and Family Services under Beshear, also urged Bevin to implement the increase in child care payments that are funded 100 percent with federal money. Day cares are struggling to serve children with low reimbursement rates the state pays, she said.

Masterson said many day care centers in Louisville were forced to close after the state froze spending on the program in 2013 because of budget problems. Enrollment in day care centers plunged as children and parents became ineligible.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said he hopes the Bevin administration is willing to address the matter and, in doing so, address some concerns that the rates are inadequate even under the changes proposed by Beshear.

The higher rates would have affected about 1,570 child care centers and 24,000 children whose parents qualify for help paying for child care. Centers that now get about $10.23 per day per child would have received an increase of about $1 per day per child.

Centers also would have been eligible for more money by demonstrating improvements in quality under the state’s star rating system for child care centers.


Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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