by Myra Segal
November 4, 2011

We congratulate Governor Martinez and CFYD Secretary Deines for putting some much-needed funding into child care services for our most vulnerable children. This has been a difficult time for families and for CYFD, as their budget came up short last year and they were faced with the difficult decision of where to cut. Now that more revenue arose in the department, I applaud CYFD and the Governor for making child care assistance a priority.

Child care assistance is key to enabling parents to work. Since many parents can only find low-wage jobs, and child care is so expensive (it’s more than UNM tuition and can eat a third of each paycheck), sliding-fee child care assistance also means that these children are more likely to get a higher quality of care. These are families living at poverty level, earning no more than $22,350 a year for a family of four. These families live on $1,860 a month while quality child care can cost $700 a month. When income requirements were tightened last year it meant that nearly 7,000 children were put on a waiting list. The wonderful news from the Governor’s announcement is that 1,300 families will be able to get assistance and get their child into higher-quality care.

The other part of this good news is that CYFD is reinstating the 4 percent that it had to cut in reimbursement rates to child care providers. Facing a budget shortfall last year, CYFD had to make tough choices. This reimbursement rate is already lower than the market rate, and child care centers that accept children on the program only get reimbursed for a portion of the actual costs (much in the same way that doctors who take Medicare and Medicaid patients are reimbursed). The funding shortfall has had real impacts on families and small businesses, as a number of child care centers had no choice but to close their doors.

It has been gratifying to see the media attention given to the impact that revenue decisions like the reimbursement rate cuts have had on small businesses and families. Yet, we aren’t ready to say “mission accomplished.” Too many of New Mexico’s children do not have the opportunity to access the important high-quality services that are proven to set them on the path to success in school and in life. I am happy for the 1,300 children who will now be getting higher-quality child care and hope that the 5,600 children who remain on the waiting list will be served very soon.

We urge you to follow the funding story as we approach the legislative session next January and hope that you will speak up with us in support of New Mexico’s children.

Myra Segal is NM Voices’ Deputy Policy Director.