DCF child care subsidies going up Oct. 1

Families will pay less out-of-pocket for care while parents work
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Local residents that are part of the Wisconsin Shares program, run by the state Department of Children and Families, will see an increase in their subsidies for child care beginning Oct. 1.

Gov. Scott Walker recently signed off on a $10 million increase in the child care subsidy program, according to DCF spokeswoman Gina Paige. The rate for infants and young children is rising statewide to a minimum of $5 per hour.

The statewide increase is expected to be 5 percent, but it will be higher for Shawano County because of the current rates. Currently, the county subsidy for child care is a maximum of $3.94 per hour for infant care and $3.57 per hour for licensed family care facilities, according to Paige.

As a result of the increased subsidy, county families should expect an average of $148 to $200 going back into their pockets each month, Paige said, depending on the care facility they use. That means more money going to pay for food, rent, utilities and other household needs, she said.

“While this is helping families get more money into their pockets, we’re also hoping this will encourage more providers in the area to potentially expand their operation or individuals who are trying to get into the child care business to take that step,” Paige said. “This is really going to be helping parents be able to afford that care.”

She noted that from birth to age 4 is the most expensive period for child care for families.

“When children are young, they depend a lot more of their caregivers,” Paige said. “The child-to-caregiver ratio is usually smaller, and some of those caregivers need additional training.”

The program is for low-income families whose income is up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Paige did not have figures on how many Shawano County residents fall in that category, but U.S. Census Bureau data shows that one in six children under the age of 18 living in Shawano County are considered to be living in poverty, and 11.4 percent of all county residents are at the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level for 2018 is $25,100 for a family of four.

Families are currently able to stay in the Wisconsin Shares program until they reach 200 percent of the federal poverty level, according to Joe Scialfa, DCF’s communications director, and then they are cut off. The new rate increase also eliminates that 200 percent cliff, but subsidies will still be scaled down for families that are above that level.

“We know how difficult it is to find child care in Shawano and in Shawano County,” Scialfa said. “We’re hoping that, by getting people to understand these rates are going up, expanding or opening a child care center or deciding to become a child care provider in-home has a better business model. This is a good time to take that leap.”

Paige said that this is the fourth increase in the child care subsidies since Walker became governor in 2011, but Scialfa noted that the previous increases were in targeted areas and not across the board.

“We are looking at potentially doing a fifth rate increase to help make high-quality child care affordable for low-income families,” Paige said.