A group of daycare workers says centers across the state are closing because of cuts made to a program that helps low income families. They met in Jackson Thursday and tell us children will pay the price if changes are not made quickly.
Leaders with the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative say daycare centers across the state are closing, or some like North Jackson Daycare, are considering closing their doors.
The group says the program that provides help for low income parents is cutting enrollment, and families ability to pay for daycare.
"The problem is the program is so inadequately funded that it's serving only a small percent of the families that qualify. And we currently have over 13,000 children on the waiting list trying to get into this program," said Carol Burnett, executive director of Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative.
"We are in a crisis for childcare and assistance for parents that are low income," said Lynne Black, director of Little Leap Academy in Tupelo.
The childcare assistance program allows parents to find work and stay on the job. But these advocates say the Department of Human Services made changes in 2011 that reduced the number of people who qualify.
The program allows parents to pay what they can for child care, based on income. This group claims, for some parents it is easier to stay on welfare .
"If you don't have anything in place to assist these parents, I just think the end result is not going to be good for the children," said Carolyn Todd, director of Enchanted Days Learning Center in Senatobia.
"Two thirds of the working families in Mississippi earn an income that qualifies them for the childcare assistance," said Burnett.
Burnett says they are just asking state leaders to give childcare higher priority, and not destroy a program that has been successful in moving parents from welfare to work.
A spokesperson for DHS says savings made possible by the changes have increased the number of children served. 1,404 children have been added since January. More than 19,000 children are currently enrolled.
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