Wisconsin Child Care Subsidy Changes Begin October 1
According to reports and official government websites, Wisconsin is ushering in significant changes to its child care subsidy program, known as Wisconsin Shares, starting this October. These changes look to streamline the subsidy calculation process, offer more financial aid to eligible families, and make the program more accessible. Here's an in-depth look at the modifications and what they mean for Wisconsin families.
What are the changes in Wisconsin Subsidy Calculation?
One of the most notable adjustments to Wisconsin Shares is the shift in how subsidies are calculated. Previously, the subsidy amount a family received was determined by the average weekly number of hours their children spent in child care. However, starting October 1st, subsidies will be based on whether children are in care part-time or full-time. This change is expected to provide a more accurate reflection of a family's child care needs.
Under the new system, any child authorized for 20 hours a week or less will be considered part-time. Their subsidy rate will be calculated based on 30 hours of care, regardless of the actual number of hours in care. On the other hand, children authorized for more than 20 hours a week will be considered full-time, with their subsidy rate calculated based on 35 hours of care. This adjustment aims to ensure that families receive the right level of support based on their child care requirements.
Will There be Financial Help for Registration Fees?
Another notable feature of these changes is the provision allowing participating families to request funds to cover registration fees. This addition is a crucial step in addressing the financial burdens that often come with enrolling children in child care programs. By offering assistance with registration fees, the Wisconsin Shares program seeks to make child care more accessible and affordable for families in need.
Another benefit is that families enrolled in Wisconsin Shares will receive a MyWIChildCare electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which functions similarly to a debit card. Each month, funds are loaded onto the card, specifically earmarked for paying child care expenses at authorized providers. This system ensures that the financial assistance provided through the program is used solely for its intended purpose.
The Wisconsin Shares program relies on funding from two federal sources: the Child Care and Development Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These sources ensure the program has necessary financial backing to support eligible families. According to the most recent statistical report, the program aided an average of 17,552 families statewide each month from August 2022 to August of this year. Funds disbursed averaged around $25,477,830 to child care providers each month during that period.
What Makes a Wisconsin Family Eligible for Benefits?
It's important to note that the eligibility criteria for Wisconsin Shares remains unchanged for the time being. To qualify for the program, families must be residents of Wisconsin and have a child under the age of 13, or a child with a disability under the age of 19. Additionally, their monthly gross income must be less than 185% of the federal poverty level. For a family of two, this equates to a monthly income of $3,040, with incremental increases of $792 for each additional person. Additionally, families can stay eligible until their income reaches 85% of the state’s median income, based on household size. Eligible parents or caregivers must also participate in approved activities such as work, school, or other activities endorsed by applicable agencies.
Looking ahead, it's worth noting that the eligibility threshold for Wisconsin Shares will increase, as part of the approved 2023 to 2025 state biennial budget. This change will raise the income threshold from 185% to 200% of the federal poverty level, allowing more families to qualify for assistance.
Wisconsin has reassured these changes will not decrease a family's subsidy as a result. The program's goal is to offer more accurate and fair subsidies based on the actual hours of child care required. The goal of the program is still to reduce out-of-pocket costs for eligible families. Wisconsin Shares continues to be a lifeline for families seeking affordable and accessible child care options.
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Gallery Credit: Bethany Adams