In May of 2022, The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services announced that a $50 million fund had been established to temporarily reduce costs for families receiving publicly funded child care (PFCC). This fund helped around 90,000 children and their families pay for child care costs and ensured that child care providers received payment. As of July 1, 2023, the fund will have been depleted and the Ohio legislature has no plans to add money to the fund.
Year-Long Waiver Program Set to Expire
According to a press release by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the fund was meant to give a “$50 million shot in the arm to these families who now have a bit more in their weekly budgets.” The plan was successful, as evidenced by recipients interviewed by Clay Pard at News 5 Cleveland. Denise Johnson, a mother of two, told News 5 that the program meant saving about $260 per week.
“By not paying it, it helped at home,” she explained. “I was able to not work as much. I still worked my 40 hours a week, but I was able to be at home with the kids. Now, I may have to pick up a shift here and there.”
Michael Ingram, the lead advocate and education coordinator at Bedford Heights Daycare, told News 5 that he is concerned about the effect this change will have on child care centers as well.
“That burden is going to be so huge on child care centers, to chase down the money so we can get full payment and run successful child care centers,” he said.
Families currently benefiting from the copay waiver should also plan for potential changes proposed in the 2024-2025 Ohio fiscal budget. The proposed fiscal year 24-25 budget would expand eligibility for publicly funded child care from 142% to 160% of the federal poverty level, opening the program to an estimated 15,000 additional children. It could also make changes to copays for families currently in the program.
Proposed Budget Could Mean More Cuts and Higher Copays
Ingram told News 5 that, “It opens the pot to more people, but it doesn’t address the copays,” he said. “What we’re worried say you’re at the 157th percentile, just below what [the limit is] going to be; the copay is going to be astronomical and huge to what it’s been compared to in the past.”
Denise Johnson has already started budgeting for what’s next.
“Now I’m afraid my copay may go up,” she said. “If my copay goes up, one of the kids may have to be removed [from childcare and] the little one may have to go part-time. If she has to go part-time, then I have to change my schedule at work. I’m going to have to get off at 3:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. to pick her up.”
At the onset of the program, Governor Dewine stated, “Affordable access to quality child care is critical to keeping Ohio families working,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “This program is designed to help families while ensuring child care providers continue to receive their full amount of funding.”
Given the proposed changes and cuts in the Ohio Republican legislature’s budget, it’s not clear how the Governor plans to meet these goals. Ohio families should prepare for increases in child care costs for the foreseeable future.