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Mo. lawmakers mulling child care funding increases

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 9, 2013 at 11:54 am •  Published: March 9, 2013
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"There seems to be a connection to the economic downturn and more kids going into the foster care system," state budget director Linda Luebbering said.

The governor's budget also proposes a 3 percent increase in the reimbursement rate to child-care centers that serve lower-income families, and it seeks to expand eligibility for the subsidized care. Luebbering said the budget plan would "reinvest" $11 million from the state's current program to provide a "transitional" benefit and raise the reimbursement rates.

Many members of the Senate Appropriations Committee were unfamiliar with Nixon's plan to expand the child care subsidies when it was outlined to them this past week. Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he found out about the proposal during a routine review of the proposed Missouri Department of Social Services budget. Some senators expressed concern about expanding the state's social welfare programs.

Missouri currently provides a full child care subsidy to families earning up to 122 percent of the poverty level. It also provides a transitional benefit for those earning up to 133 percent of poverty, or nearly $26,000 annually for a family of three.

Under Nixon's plan, the state would pick up 75 percent of the tab for the child care costs of parents who make between 135 percent and 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Missouri would also pick up half the cost for families earning up to 175 percent of the poverty standard, or about $34,000 for a family of three.

The expanded benefits would add about 3,000 children to the system.

Luebbering said this "stair-step" approach would allow people who start to earn more money to continue receiving some form of state child care benefits.