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Early Learning Coalition Will Cover Child Care Expenses ForWorking Families

Early Learning Coalition Will Cover Child Care Expenses ForWorking Families

by James Coulter

Child care costs are so expensive these days that many parents are forced to choose between finding a job and looking after their children. In fact, child care in Florida is even more expensive than in-state college tuition, according to recent statistics.

Fortunately, the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County is willing to help, as it’s currently assisting over 5,000 families in Polk County with child care expenses. The Coalition is willing to pay up to $200 a week to help working parents balance their child care needs with their job.

The Early Learning Coalition assists with child care cost for working families, providing resources to educate families onchoosing quality child care, and working with providers to offer quality care.

Their eligibility requirements are based on employment and/oreducation. Recently, the Office of Early Learning has waived the requirement for schooling and education, allowing unemployed parents to receive assistance with child care for up to 90 days provided they are actively job searching.

Diane Bowman, Vice President of Family Services stated, “We are working with our families to educate them on how to choose quality childcare so they can go to work with the peace of mind knowing their children are in a safe environment.”

Bowman has been involved with the School Readiness program for the past 24 years. She appreciates her job, and she enjoys being able to assist parents so that they can make informed decision on their child care needs. 

Currently, parents can receive assistance for child care services based upon their child’s age and the child care setting. For example, if a parent decides to utilize a family child care home provider, the provider could potentially be reimbursed up to $42 a day, which is $210 a week, Bowman explained.

Furthermore, parents are assessed a co-payment based on their household income and family size. For example, a family of four at an income of $30,000 annually, would have a co-payment of $3.20 a day for the first child and $1.60 for the second child. The total would be $24.00 a week out of pocket for both children, with the coalition covering the remaining costs.

The School Readiness program requires that all children birth to 5 years of age receive a developmental screening. Children 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the current school year are eligible to be enrolled in the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program, allowing them to receive pre-school education regardless of their income.

“We are trying to get word out there,” Bowman said. The biggest challenge is getting families to learn about the Early Learning Coalition and the different programs that the Coalition offers. More than 5,000 families in Polk County are already being assisted, but many more remain unaware of these services that could assist their family while education their children. The Coalition maintains an expedient enrollment process. Any parent who applies on Monday could have their children enrolled in aprogram within a week.

To learn more about the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County and their services, visit their website at: www.elcpolk.org

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Staff Reporter

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