Thousands of N.M. families await child care assistance
Over the past year and a half, the state Child Care Assistance Program’s waiting list has swelled to include more than 5,800 low-income New Mexico families, Child, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) spokesman Enrique Knell confirmed Tuesday.
More than 22,000 children of unemployed and low-income working parents are enrolled in the program, which pays a monthly subsidy directly to approved child care providers.
But facing budget shortfalls and increasing numbers of applicants in an ailing economy, CYFD started a waiting list for the program in January 2010, Knell said.
Previously, all qualified applicants were enrolled in the program, he said.
“CYFD had to begin a waiting list for all new families that qualified for child care assistance, but (whose) income levels fell between 100 and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level,” Knell said.
Asked how long wait-listed families remain on the list, Knell said it is “difficult to predict.”
CYFD has only been able to enroll new families that are enrolled in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program or with income levels at or below the federal poverty level, Knell said.
For a family of four, the federal poverty level is an income of $1,863 a month or less.
Applicants with household incomes falling between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty limit are placed on the waiting list, Knell said.
About half — 2,458 — of families on the waiting list live in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, according to records provided by CYFD. (See below for a list of the number of families on the waiting list in each N.M. county.)
CYFD Early Childhood Services Director Diana Martinez-Gonzales will describe the department’s plan to address the wait list at an August 17 Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Red River, N.M.
“We are looking at changes in the child care program and will announce those at the proper time,” Knell said.
CYFD’s fiscal year 2011 budget, which ended June 30, was $376 million, with $83 million going to child care assistance.
The New Mexico Legislature approved an emergency appropriation of $2.4 million to CYFD in February, to avoid dropping current recipients from the program.
N.M. County - Number of Children on CYFD Waiting List
Bernalillo - 2458
Catron - 0
Chaves - 363
Cibola - 22
Colfax - 0
Curry - 205
De Baca - 1
Dona Ana - 930
Eddy - 118
Grant - 26
Guadalupe - 8
Harding - 0
Hidalgo - 0
Lea - 209
Lincoln - 29
Los Alamos - 1
Luna - 54
McKinley - 94
Mora - 0
Otero - 127
Quay - 2
Rio Arriba - 45
Roosevelt - 69
San Juan - 140
San Miguel - 59
Sandoval - 285
Santa Fe - 265
Sierra - 32
Socorro - 11
Taos - 68
Torrance - 27
Union - 0
Valencia - 228
Total - 5876
Data provided by CYFD on Aug. 2, 2011.