Child Care Subsidies: Family Copayments Vary Widely Across States
By Sarah Minton Christin Durham :: December 3rd, 2012
The third in a three-part blog series about state child care subsidy policies from the CCDF Policies Database. Friday: Child care assistance during the job search. Thursday: Who's eligible for child care subsidies.
One of the most important sources of help for families struggling with child care expenses is the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), a federal block grant program that provides subsidized child care to low-income families. CCDF subsidies cover a portion of child care costs, with most families still required to pay part of the cost, often referred to as a family’s “copayment”. The amount families must pay, though, varies widely by state.
Federal guidelines require states to establish sliding fee scales to vary copayments by family size and income, but states have a lot of flexibility in determining the details of those policies. States determine exactly how much they will require families to pay at different income levels; how to vary the copayment for families with multiple children in care, children with special needs, or those only using part-time care; and whether to exempt some families from paying any copayment.
To compare state policies, let’s consider a family of three with a single parent earning the federal minimum wage and two children, ages two and four, receiving full-time, center-based care. Across the states and the District of Columbia, this family’s monthly copayment would range from $0 in nine states to $414 in Hawaii (about 33 percent of the family’s monthly income). The family’s average copayment across all states is equal to 6 percent of income.
If the same family has, instead, two parents earning minimum wage, their monthly copayment would range from $35 in Wyoming (about 1 percent of the family’s monthly income) to $1,035 in Hawaii (roughly 41 percent of the family’s monthly income), with the average copayment across states equal to almost 10 percent of income. Additionally, the family would be ineligible for child care assistance in 7 states.
It is important to consider these different copayment amounts in the full context of a state’s subsidy policies. For example, higher copayments may allow a state to stretch their subsidy dollars across more families. More detail about copayment policies and eligibility determination can be found in the CCDF Policies Database 2011 Book of Tables.