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NM extends child care aid to remote workers

SANTA FE – The state agency in charge of child care has amended rules to allow eligible parents who work or study remotely to receive assistance with child care costs.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department said Tuesday that it will permanently add “teleworking” to the definition of employment and “online courses” to the definition of a student parent under subsidy eligibility rules.

“The Early Childhood Education and Care Department is committed to responding flexibly and adaptively amid the health emergency – and that means modifying our rules to ensure that children and families have the support they need,” department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said.

It’s unclear how many families may have been disqualified because they did not fall within the previous definitions. An agency spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Across the country, women have disproportionately left the workforce amid increased pressure to care for children and other family members.

The inclusion of remote workers and students is the latest effort by New Mexico officials to support access to child care. That may come rather late for some parents who faced difficult choices on child care weeks ago.

In August, parents scrambled for limited child care when many child care programs ended, along with co-payment waivers for those families that were eligible for subsidies. Weeks later, the subsidies were reinstated.

Child care providers have also struggled to stay afloat with higher costs to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and lower revenue because fewer children are allowed in their buildings under the state’s public health order. The state child care agency has subsidized child care worker salaries and has taken other actions in an effort to support the industry.

New Mexico families are eligible for child care subsidies when household income is 200% of the federal poverty level or less. That’s around $52,400 for a family of four.