Pitkin County lifts cap on child-care program
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – A cap on the number of Pitkin County families that can receive child-care assistance under a state-mandated program will be dropped, county commissioners agreed Tuesday despite lingering fears that the program could be overwhelmed with applicants as a result.
Commissioners agreed late last year to increase child-care funding to $171,096 ($85,652 comes from the state) for 2012, allowing the county to serve an average of 16 families per month this year. A year ago, commissioners capped the program at 13 families, a move that put some applicants on a waiting list. Families are eligible if they earn less than 185 percent of what’s considered a poverty-level income by the federal government – that equates to a monthly income of $3,400 for a family of four before taxes.
The income threshold will remain unchanged; the city of Aspen’s Kids First program offers assistance to families who earn more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, commissioners were told.
Commissioners will receive quarterly updates on the number of families the county is serving. There is the risk that the number of qualified applicants will jump above an average of 16 per month, said County Manager Jon Peacock.
“It’s an unknown that I don’t support and that I’m worried about,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
Commissioner Rob Ittner suggested a cap of 20 families, allowing commissioners to address the situation before spending on the program escalates too far beyond its current budget.
“If we were looking at 25 families that need this, I’d be looking at the budget to find the money,” he said.
His colleagues didn’t support a firm cap, but several commissioners voiced support for making sure qualified individuals receive help even if the number of families in the program exceeds an average of 16 per month.
“We have the funds to cover it,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley. “The family that needs this support doesn’t have those kinds of resources. That’s why we’re here.”
“For me, this is human infrastructure – as important as the capital we’re putting into the roads,” added Commissioner Rachel Richards, noting the value of early childhood education. “I think we have the money and I think our community has the money.”
Commissioners took no formal action Tuesday. A resolution that lifts the cap will come to them for a vote at a later date.
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