OKLAHOMA – If you are a parent or will soon be a parent in need of daycare service, listen up.
The Department of Human Services is freezing a program which helps low-income Oklahoma families pay for child care.
New applications within the child care subsidy program will soon be denied in an effort to save money.
Those who are currently enrolled in the system will not be impacted.
It’s those moms who are currently pregnant or those families who will soon need the financial help who are about to have to figure out a way to do without.
Baylea Brown is a single mom in the Oklahoma City area.
She relies on the state subsidy to help pay for child care for her 9-year-old son, Gavin, who has special needs.
“Because of the subsidy, I can pay my rent. I can pay for food,” she said.
It’s a subsidy that helps low-income Oklahoma families.
But, starting June 1, 2016, the program will be frozen.
“The agency has run out of money this year,” said Sheree Powell, spokesperson for DHS.
NewsChannel 4 obtained an internal memo from DHS.
The memo was sent out earlier this week, alerting employees to the changes that are coming.
The memo states “Due to the ongoing state budget shortfall, DHS will freeze enrollment for the child care subsidy program effective June 1, 2016.”
It goes on to say “Although new applications will not be approved, applicants still have the right to apply for the program and should not be prevented from doing so. However, applicants should be informed that all new applications will be denied. Notice of denial will be mailed to all who apply after the deadline. This decision cannot be appealed. However, if a client requests a hearing on this decision the request should be accepted and forwarded to the DHS Appeals Unit. The Appeals Unit will notify the applicant that the decision cannot be appealed.”
“We’re really concerned about the effects this will have,” Powell said. “We just simply have no choice.
“Families need these subsidies,” said Kelli Dupuy with Special Care in Oklahoma City. “It is critical.”
At Special Care, they serve special needs and “traditionally” developing children.
They worry what this change will mean for clients currently waiting to get in.
“I know it sounds like a word,” Dupuy said. “It’s a subsidy, but what it is, it’s acceptance. It’s opportunity. It’s safety for children.”
DHS also has concerns.
“Some of the things we’re concerned about is that families won’t be able to find quality child care, or they’ll start leaving their children in unsafe situations, maybe with relatives or friends who really aren’t qualified to care for their children,” Powell said.
“I’ve been trying to think what are parents supposed to do, and I can’t come up with a solution,” Brown said.
Brown’s glad her subsidy is safe, but she knows just how hard life will potentially be for the families who will soon be denied the help.
“That just sounds kind of impossible – to work and to pay bills and to have daycare,” she said,
DHS said exceptions to the freeze are children approved through CWS, children adopted through DHS who meet certain requirements (those requirements were not outlined), children in trial reunification and TANF recipients who are participating in an approved work activity.
As for just how big the impact could be, DHS said they have an average of 2,000 families a month apply for the assistance.
The deadline to enroll in the child care subsidy program is May 31, 2016.
Any application turned in after that date will be denied until further notice.