PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota is poised to expand income eligibility for receiving child care assistance services.
It also appears ready to make the subsidies more generous.
The state Department of Social Services held a hearing Monday afternoon on increasing the maximum threshold to 209 percent of the federal poverty level. The threshold currently is 175 percent.
No one came from the public attended the 4 p.m. hearing.
No one sent comments either, according to Carol Forsch, interim director for the department’s Division of Child Care Services.
The department is taking comments through close of business May 23. Those can be sent to Teresa Schulte, Department of Social Services, 700 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501.
The change would go to the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee June 3. If approved the new system takes effect July 1.
Approximately 2,000 households received the aid in state government’s 2018 budget year.
Households making more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level must provide some co-pay under South Dakota’s current system.
Under the proposal that trigger would rise to 160 percent.
Co-pay amounts are calculated based on family size and income via a sliding fee scale.
Here’s how it currently works.
For a two-person household, of a parent and a child, the federal poverty level stood at $1,409 per month as of March 1. That’s $16,910 per year — roughly $8 per hour.
So a two-person household could currently make up to $2,114 per month, or 150 percent of the poverty level, before a co-pay starts for child care assistance.
The child-care co-pay for that two-person household currently ranges from $70 per month at 155 percent up to $345 per month at 175 percent.
Under the proposed change, there wouldn’t be a co-pay for that two-person household until its income exceeded 160 percent.
The co-pay then would become $35 at 165 percent and $71 at 170 percent.
At 175 percent, the co-pay would be $106. That represents a potential savings of $239 from the current co-pay for the same household.
Expanding the income eligiblity up to 209 percent would help subsidize child-care assistance for an estimated 144 more households and 288 more children.
That’s according to a packet presented February 11 to the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee.
To pay for expanding eligibility to 209 percent, lawmakers budgeted nearly $1.3 million of additional federal aid.
While $1.3 million is a lot of money, it’s tiny within the state Social Services budget.
The department’s combined spending already topped $1 billion for this budget year from federal, state and other sources of revenue.
According to the department’s website, the child-care program helps pay for child care for children under age 13 — or up to age 18 for children with special needs.
Eligible families receive a certificate showing the eligibility period and the amount of assistance the family is eligible to receive, the website said, and households must use one of the following types of child care provider to get the assistance:
A state licensed or registered child care provider
An aunt or uncle
A grandparent or great-grandparent
A brother or sister who doesn’t live at the same residence and is at least 18
A provider who comes into the home
Or a family friend who provides care for the children of only one family and maintains a separate residence.
So who is eligible for child care assistance? According to the department, you are if:
You are working at least 80 hours per month and are within the established income guidelines.
You receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and are in an approved work activity.
You are a vocational or technical student in a program running two years or less and your school and work equal 80 hours per month.
You are a college student who attends school a minimum of 80 hours per month or a combination of both work and school for a minimum of 80 hours per month.
You are attending a college, university or technical institute a minimum of 12 semester credit hours.
Or you are a high school or GED student.
There are some other requirements. For example, at a two-parent household, both parents must meet work or work/school requirements.
In addition, you must have at least a 30-day need for child care. The Division of Child Care Services won’t pay for child care for anyone pursuing education beyond a bachelor’s degree.
And who can apply for child care assistance?
The department says a child’s parent, guardian or a person who is exercising parental control of the child can.
If the application is submitted by a person exercising parental control, she or he must provide a signed statement from the child’s parent or guardian giving authority to exercise parental control of the child.
According to the department, people can obtain an application by visiting any local office or One-Stop Career Center or by one of the following:
Calling the division at 1.800.227.3020
Sending an email to CCS@state.sd.us
Or by printing and completing a Child Care Assistance Application.