Childcare funds disappear post-stimulus - - Jackson, MS

Childcare funds disappear post-stimulus

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

At the State Capitol Wednesday, some childcare providers are fighting to reclaim some of the business they lost when stimulus funds ran out in May.

Children learn and have fun at The Prep Company Tutorial School, a childcare center in Jackson. But fewer parents are coming in with subsidized childcare certificates, and Director Deloris Suel says it's hurting the children more than anyone.

"They are babysitting," she says of some children she used to watch at her centers. "I see them with their little sister, brother, they're out playing. Sometimes you look, they're 9 years old, the youngest child may be 3 or 4."

Thousands of other childcare facilities statewide, licensed and unlicensed, accept vouchers from the Mississippi Childcare Certificate Program. Only low-income, working families are eligible. "If the parent earns more money, they have to pay more, the program pays less," says Carol Burnett, Director of The Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative. "It helps parents go to work, it's a work support."

$31 million dollars in stimulus funds ran out last September. As we learned in a meeting at the state Capitol Wednesday, the Department of Human Services pulled strings for eight months to keep children on board. But in May, 3,900 children were cut from the program.

Some believe the problem goes beyond the loss in stimulus funds. State Senator David Jordan, who called the hearing, says the Planning and Development Districts around the state, which administer the funds for DHS, are causing concern.

"Most of the problems that have been brought to me have been from that particular level," Jordan says. "The cog of the wheel may be at the PDD level. A lot of politics goes on at that level, that in turn hampers the whole program.".

DHS is aware of that issue. "We're always doing an evaluation of the program," says Rickey Berry, Deputy Director of Administrative Programs.

DHS has been asked to consider using more TANF, or welfare, dollars for the certificate program. "We've really not received a budget this year, we're just operating on a series of continuing resolutions," he says. "We really won't know until October 1 what the funding level will be for next year."

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