CLEVELAND — Calah Thompson is a Northeast Ohio working mother who is raising her 4-year-old son on her own, and believes the state can do more to help Ohio moms with daycare costs.
Thompson is hoping current efforts in Columbus will allow more low income mothers to qualify for Publicly Funded Child Care in 2021.
Thompson is a teacher who is concerned if she accepts a raise at work, it will put her over current Ohio income guidelines for state child care support, which is currently 130% of the federal poverty level. Thompson said if she lost the weekly $76 dollars in child care assistance she's currently getting from the state, it will cause her to make some tough choices.
“There’s that fear of making too much money," Thompson said. “If the vouchers were gone, I would have to even get a second job. If vouchers were to be taken away from me, I may have to push my son into kindergarten, and I don’t think he’s ready. I don't want to take him out of daycare, he’s used to that structure, he learns there, it’s school to him.”
Rep. Mary Lightbody, Ohio House District 19 (D-Westerville), said too many working single mothers are faced with a childcare dilemma. That's why she's co-sponsor of House Bill 145, which would raise the qualifying income level for childcare assistance to 200% of the federal poverty level.
The measure would allow a working mother to make up to $22 an hour and still qualify for daycare help.
“I really do think the 200% is where it needs to be, because what we’re saying now is that if a woman makes more than $11 an hour then she makes too much to qualify," Lightbody said. "For a family to pay for childcare, it’s often the second highest expense after their housing, and there are a lot fewer childcare places than there were pre-pandemic. Families have to make tough choices, I think we have to get as many of those families and parents back to the work force. If they don’t have enough food on the table, the parents don’t eat so that the kids can. If the child requires medication, or they do, sometimes they skip filling their prescriptions.”
Lightbody said HB 145 is in a house committee and is getting prepared for hearings and testimony from Ohio mothers and families.
Lynanne Gutierrez, assistant director with childcare advocacy agency Groundwork Ohio, is in support of HB 145 and said her organization is also keeping close watch on House Bill 110, which is part of Ohio's 2021 budget bill.
Gutierrez said right now that measure would raise the qualifying income level to 138% of the federal poverty level, and while it's a start, it really wouldn't have a big impact in helping a growing number of low income mothers who need daycare assistance.
“It only serves between 2,000 to 2,500 additional kids, and that comes at a time when we’re serving 20,000 less children in our publicly funded childcare program," Gutierrez said. "You can’t not consider childcare, they are the workforce behind the workforce.”
Gutierrez is urging working mothers to contact their state lawmakers in Columbus, or send a message through the Groundwork Ohio Action Center.
Gutierrez said she expects the Ohio senate to decide on the federal poverty level threshold for HB 110 on June 12.