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Day Care Wait List Getting Shorter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — About 1,300 New Mexico children living near the federal poverty line will be added to a state program that helps pay day-care costs starting Nov. 1, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday.

The children always have been eligible for the program, but are part of a waiting list established last year after cuts were made to the program in order to balance the state budget. There will still be about 5,600 children on the waiting list after the 1,300 are added to the program’s rolls.

Martinez also announced that a 4 percent reduction in reimbursements to child-care businesses involved with the program – enacted last year as another cost-cutting measure – will be reversed. Martinez said that change will have a major effect on the businesses.

“A 4 percent cut can make the difference between maintaining services or simply closing their doors,” the governor said.

The state sent out letters to about 5,000 families a year ago informing them that they would not be able to get state help for day care because of a 3.2 percent cut in the state budget for the program, as well as a shortfall of federal dollars. Applications for the program also jumped by about 40 percent from 2009 to 2010.

No families living under the federal poverty line – or an annual income of about $22,350 for a family of four – were excluded from the program.

The 1,300 children will be added from families whose incomes are between 100 and 110 percent of the poverty line, said Enrique Knell, Children Youth and Families Department spokesman. If there is still room after those children are admitted, the state will allow some children whose families make up to 115 percent of the poverty line to be admitted, he said.

The new spots in the program are attributed to attrition of other program users, such as a child becoming too old to qualify or a family leaving the state, Knell said. New applicants who are between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty line will still be placed on the waiting list, he said.

Child advocacy groups praised the Martinez administration for making room for more families to use subsidies for day care.

“With thousands of low-income families on a waiting list for help in paying for child care, and dozens of child care centers closing their doors in the last year, this is very welcome news,” said Bill Jordan, New Mexico Voices for Children policy director.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal