Iowa Senate approves expanded childcare help for lower-income families

Measure would allow parents to work up to 28 hours a week, pursue education, still qualify for help

Rod Boshart
Published: February 26 2014 | 12:06 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:11 am in
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The Iowa Senate took steps Wednesday intended to improve the availability and stability of childcare for lower income working families.

Provisions of Senate File 2251, which passed on a 48-0 vote, were designed to remove barriers for low-income working parents by modifying guidelines to allow them to both work part time and pursue educational opportunities for a period of at least 28 hours a week while still qualifying for childcare assistance, said Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids.

Currently, she said working parents may only do one or the other to be considered eligible for the program that pays all or part of the cost of childcare services. The changes for Iowa families at or below the 145 percent federal poverty level if eligibility requirements for the childcare assistance program are expanded potentially could impact 115 to 160 families and 206 to 289 children, according to estimates by the state Department of Human Services.

Senate File 2251 also requires parents to renew their application for services at 12 months instead of every six months, and it requires DHS officials to develop a smart phone mobile application for applying for services. Currently 22 states review application and eligibility for child-care assistance services every 12 months.

Analysts in the Legislative Service Agency project the proposed changes would have a state budget impact of about $3.22 million $3,187,296 for the extended eligibility provision and $30,000 for mobile application development and implementation.

In other action Wednesday, senators voted 49-0 to authorize the state Department of Public Health to establish a state Lyme disease task force to look into issues associated with the illness spread via tick bites. Senate File 2090 also goes to the Iowa House for consideration.

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