Increasing access to high-quality, early childhood education was a campaign promise of now-Governor Mike DeWine.
His budget proposal that was submitted to the state legislature on Friday makes good on that promise with a proposed investment of more than $99 million annually to improve the quality of Ohio’s child care system.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, this investment will provide a strong base for Ohio’s child care producers to achieve quality before DeWine expands access back up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
For so many families, affordable child care is a missing piece of the puzzle.
“What I have to pay out-of-pocket, I can't afford it,” said Jasma Mathis. “I can't afford to live and do that."
Mathis is a single mom working full time. She says she's barely getting by, but still making too much to qualify for help paying for high-quality child care.
Her 3-year-old daughter stays with grandpa while she goes to work.
“So, if you look at paying for a pre-schooler, which is about $160 a week, how do you fit that in?” questioned Debbie Fodge, assistant director of Starting Point.
Fodge says the income calculation is based on gross income, not your take-home pay.
Starting Point connects families in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake Counties with early care and education programs.
With her experience, she said she believes more help is needed for working families.
Governor DeWine has proposed increasing the eligibility threshold for subsidized child care from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent.
For a family of two, it would raise the maximum monthly income requirement from $1,784 to $2,058.
For a family of four, it would go from $2,720 to $3,138.
The change would add an estimated 20,000 children statewide to the program.
"The thing that's really important to think about is that certainly high-quality preschool is an investment in our future because it prepares children for kindergarten, but it's also an investment in today's workforce because if parents don't have an affordable, safe, high-quality place to send their kids, they sometimes have to leave the workforce,” said Michelle Connavino, Pre4Cle.
In 2005, initial eligibility was 185 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2008, it was 200 percent of the FPL. In 2009, it was 150 percent of the FPL. In 2011, it was 125 percent of the FPL. In 2015, it was increased to its current level of 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
“It's hard being a single parent,” said Jasma. “It's so very hard. it never leaves your brain how you're going to help your kid or better their life. Even if it doesn’t help me, it might help somebody."
We reached out to the governor's office for comment. His press secretary would only say, "Children's initiatives are a significant part of the governor's agenda and will be a focus of his moving forward."
As for how much a possible increase to the eligibility threshold would cost the state, those numbers will be announced when the executive budget is released, which is expected to no later than March 15th.
Ohio’s subsidized child care program is funded through a combination of state and federal funds.
To see the current income eligibility standards, click here.