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State assistance for child care depends on family's income

Child care is a major issue for the North Dakota workforce.

Many people, often moms, who want to work are forced into stay-at-home parenthood either because there is no child care available or because child care would cost more than what the job would net for the family.

In an effort to help more moderate-income families, the Legislature added funding to the child care assistance program. It allows those making up to 85 percent of the state median income to qualify for the benefit on a sliding scale, said Carol Cartledge, director of economic assistance policy division for the child care assistance program through the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

"By changing who is eligible based on their income, we are hopeful that we'll be able to help a lot more families," Cartledge said.

Payments are based on a sliding-scale, meaning the more you make, the less the program pays, taking household size into account, Cartledge said.

"Historically, the usage is greater in the urban areas like Bismarck, Grand Forks, Fargo, Minot," Cartledge said. "Over the last biennium, we did see a decrease in usage of the program and that's partly due to families' income."

The added funding is estimated to help an additional 400 to 500 families across the state during this biennium, Cartledge said.

Loran Hibl, lead eligibility worker for Stark County Social Services, said the organization doesn't know exactly how many local families would benefit from the additional funds, but the agency has had inquiries since the announcement was made earlier this week.

"Especially if they're in the oil field," Hibl said. "It's your other workers that are working other jobs that aren't making that money that hopefully this is going to help those people."

Parents have to be in an approved activity like work or school to qualify, Hibl said.

The income cap for a family of four is $5,851 per month, Cartledge said. In addition to being on a sliding scale, there is a per-child cap to how much the program will pay. Even those who qualify for the largest amount of assistance would have to pay out of pocket on top of their co-pay if their child care provider charges more than the cap.

Child care providers have to be licensed with the state in order for the families to receive the benefit, but almost anyone can become a qualified child care provider with the state, pending credentials, said Jennifer Barry, early childhood services administrator with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

Barry oversees quality and licensing of child care. Licensing depends on the type of facility and number of children the provider is caring for, Barry said. Self-declared providers or approved relatives can care for five or fewer children or three infants and still qualify for child care assistance.

The process starts with speaking with local social services offices, Barry said. Those interested should also contact North Dakota Childcare Resource and Referral to see if there are any assistance programs available through that office.

For more information, including applications, about child care assistance or becoming a provider, visit http://www.nd.gov/dhs/services/childcare/info/ or contact Stark County Social Services at 701-456-7675.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206
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