(The Center Square) – Georgia is expanding its child care assistance program to include an additional 10,000 children, Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials announced.
The state will raise the eligibility threshold Nov. 1 for its Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program. It currently helps families with low and no income with child care costs for 50,000 children. The expansion will be funded with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we have made child care a top priority in Georgia for assisting first responders, essential workers, and other hardworking families who could not stop their important work or work from home during this challenging time," Kemp said in a statement. "CAPS is a great example of a public initiative that helps families, their children, and providers alike. This expansion will allow us to serve more Georgians while also helping more providers become Quality Rated."
The state will change the entry income threshold from 50% of the State Median Income (SMI) to 85% SMI from November through Oct. 1, 2024. It also will increase its tiered bonus payments to providers by 15% based on their star level. The star-level bonuses will range from 25% to 55%. Child care providers who are on their way to achieving a rating, including those in a probationary or provisional status, will receive a 15% increase from current CAPS base rates.
"This is to help in their efforts to increase their quality and successfully achieve a star rating," Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) Commissioner Amy Jacobs said.
According to Childcare Aware of America, the average annual price for full-time infant care in a Georgia child care center is about $8,729, or $168 a week. Data shows 22% of Georgia's 387,551 children under age 3 live with families earning less than 100% of the federal poverty level. Another 22% also live with families earning 100% to 200% of the federal poverty level.
DECAL launched an initiative in May that waived the family's portion of child care in CAPS through Oct. 2, 2022, and other requirements because of the COVID-19 pandemic.