Breckenridge Town Council approves updates to child care assistance program

The program has not had a significant change since its establishment in 2007 until this week

Preschoolers play at Little Red SchoolHouse Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 in Breckenridge. On Tuesday, April 12, Town Council approved updates to the child care tuition assistance program, which allows families to receive partial funding for daycare.
Hugh Carey/Summit Daily archive

Editor’s note: The headline of this story has been updated with the correct year the child care assistance program was established, 2007.

Breckenridge Town Council approved updates to the town’s child care assistance program at its work session on Tuesday, April 12, to potentially provide child care support to more families in the community.

The update included three proposals. One specified that at least one member of the household has to work for a business in Summit County. Another update increased the income cap for assistance. The third update expanded the sliding scale to include more income levels.

Austyn Dineen, child care and housing administrator for the town, presented the changes to the Town Council at the workshop. She said that these changes will be used when the program opens again in mid-May to help prioritize the program for residents who live and work in the community. Until Tuesday, the program had not had significant changes since its launch in 2007.

Before the changes were approved, in order to qualify for assistance, families had to live or work in the Upper Blue Basin. Due to the surge in remote jobs, the town’s staff felt it is necessary to clarify that at least one member of the household is required to work for a business located in and serving Summit County. This way, remote employees who work for companies that do not serve the community do not ultimately take assistance away from residents who do. This aligns with the town’s housing criteria.

Mayor Eric Mamula said that he wants to make sure that government-subsidized benefits of the town, like the child care assistance program, apply only for workers who benefit the town. He said preferably both parents would be required to work for companies in Summit County. But if the town’s child care committee is okay with the requirement that only one family member works for the county, he would accept it.

“If you’re working for a remote company that’s anywhere else in the country and creating value for New York City, you shouldn’t be taking treasure from this town to support living here, so I draw a really bright line between where that company is located,” Mamula said. “I do not support funding child care for people that decide to move here and work for a company that’s not located here.”

Before the recommendation to change the specifications, most of the child care centers in the program were already giving preference to families that were a part of the local workforce, so there are no families in the program that are working fully remote.

“This clarification in the parameters is really just to make sure we’re double backing on it, really, so that we don’t have anybody in the program that is a fully remote family,” Dineen told council members.

The committee also asked to increase the income cap for the program, as well. Before Tuesday, families who earned in excess of 150% of the area median income, or $144,150 in a family of four, were not eligible to receive any tuition assistance.

“Unfortunately, as tuition rates have risen, we are aware that there are situations where these families may be cost burdened based on accepted standards. This is especially difficult in Summit County where other costs (housing, medical, etc.) are also high,” Dineen’s memo to the Council reads. “The family becomes cost burdened when the family has multiple kids in care for four or five days a week. Currently, a family at 180% (area median income) that has a gross income of $173,000 pays $43,160 annually for two infants or toddlers to attend care five days a week.”

The United States Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as 7% of a family’s income. To come closer to the HHS recommended 7%, Breckenridge’s town staff recommended this sliding scale for the upcoming year of its child care tuition program.
One child in care
Area Median Income rangePercent of income spent on child care
The United States Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as 7% of a family’s income. To come closer to the HHS recommended 7%, Breckenridge’s town staff recommended this sliding scale for the upcoming year of its child care tuition program.
Two children in care
Area Median Income rangePercent of income spent on child care

These families are participating in the local workforce, often in specialized or skilled positions, and still have a cost burden from child care, so the child care committee requested an expansion of the upper cap to help assist these families, as well. For the expanded sliding scale, this means that families with higher incomes will receive less assistance than families with lower incomes. Both families would receive assistance, but at varying degrees or percentages.

The cost-burden calculation currently uses 10-13% of a family’s income to establish what is considered affordable. This calculation is used to determine a family’s copayment for tuition. This was shifted from 13-16% to 10-13% in January 2021 for the remainder of the 2021-2022 cycle. The exact copay is calculated based on specific circumstances, which includes family income, number of children in care, household size, days used, residency and priority for work in Breckenridge. Council members said that in the future, it could be worth exploring ways to explain the parameters of the program that do not use area median income, as that measure can be hard to explain and understand for residents who do not work with that measure every day.

The child care tuition assistance program operates with a budget that’s approximately $600,000-$650,000. These changes would cost $60,000 more per year, or around 10%, and will be expected to be offset with the inclusion of 3-year-olds in the Summit Pre-K Program in the fall. The 2022-2023 year of the program, which will begin in May, is expected to cost $425,000 with the increase.

“This is so unbelievably complex, and I don’t think people realize how complex it is — from figuring it out to how many kids to what else going on,” Mamula said. “It’s incredible.”

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