Mo. child care subsidy rate lowest in nation, survey says

Friday, September 29, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:16 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

KANSAS CITY — An annual survey of state child care subsidies found that Missouri’s income threshold to qualify for subsidies is the lowest in the nation.

In Missouri, a family of three no longer qualifies for a state subsidy to help pay for child care when its income exceeds $18,216. The highest subsidy cutoff in the nation was in Hawaii, where it was $47,124. Kansas’ cutoff is $29,772, according to the survey from the National Women’s Law Center.

The survey considered factors such as the existence of a waiting list, the rates paid to providers and the co-payments required of low-income parents.

A low state rate for providers reduces choices for low-income families because some child care providers are not willing to accept the rates paid by the state. The authors said only nine states currently pay enough to give poor parents adequate choice and access in the child care market. That number has fallen from 22 in 2001.

The survey also found that between 2001 and 2006, fewer than one-third of the states raised income thresholds enough to keep pace with increases in what is defined as poverty.

The good news from the survey is that in more than two-thirds of the states, families paid the same or a smaller fraction of their income for child care in 2006 than in 2005. The 2006 figure, however, had risen relative to 2001.

And the number of states with a waiting list for a subsidy fell from 22 in 2001 to 18 in 2006. There was no waiting list in either Kansas or Missouri.

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