Mecklenburg County looking to expand childcare subsidy program

“I’ve actually spent four years on the waiting list and currently our family is dealing with poverty...”
If approved, the subsidy would help at least 700 additional children throughout the county.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:48 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - If you’re struggling to make ends meet or to pay for childcare, you’re not alone.

And now, Mecklenburg County is looking at ways to create better access to affordable childcare through a pilot program it wants to launch this summer.

The program would invest an additional $10.5 million to help hundreds of additional families. A surplus in the county budget because of the COVID-19 relief bill is making this pilot program possible for the next two years.

The county currently spends $20.7 million per year to help subsidize the cost of childcare for families, and the new program would only increase that amount.

This all comes during a time where parents are making difficult family decisions because of the price of childcare.

“It’s approximately, middle end, about $1,200 per child,” mother-of-three Elysha Schroeder said. “I’ve actually spent four years on the waiting list, and currently our family is dealing with poverty because me and my husband are unable to both work because of the cost of childcare.”

If approved, the new program will help people like the Schroeders.

In all, the subsidy would help at least 700 additional children throughout the county.

“It’s a start,” Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners for District 4, Mark Jerrell said. “One of the things we’re seeing is that people are being penalized in ways that are frankly unfair, and it particularly falls on our working families.”

Mecklenburg County commissioners say some families in need are running into roadblocks.

They either don’t meet the work and education requirements required to qualify, or they’re making too much money but still need help.

“I went in for several interviews and every time there’s just so many parameters that makes it very hard for people to qualify,” Schroeder said. “It would raise us out of poverty. It gives us an opportunity to both pursue jobs, both work, both make income.”

This pilot program would help eliminate some of those barriers by:

  • Reducing the required work and education hours to qualify from 30 to 22 hours per week
  • Increasing the amount of money you’re allowed to earn, and still qualify to 300% of the federal poverty line
  • Family co-payment of 10 percent of monthly household gross income
  • Including childcare vouchers for up to two years
  • Offer referrals to workforce development for parents

“Investing in working families, investing in children is really a return on investment for our community not only in the short-term, but the mid-term and the long-term,” Jerrell said.

Commissioners heard the idea presentation during Tuesday’s meeting. If approved by the county board of commissioners, the program would launch on June 1.

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