Town of Breckenridge spends $120K on child care assistance as families struggle with quarantines |

Town of Breckenridge spends $120K on child care assistance as families struggle with quarantines

Timberline Learning Center teacher Sarah Young plays with Fischer Dineen at the preschool in Breckenridge on Jan. 8, 2021. The town of Breckenridge is investing $120,000 into child care assistance to help local families.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

The Breckenridge Town Council hopes a $120,000 investment in child care assistance programs will help ease some of the burden on local families.

The council approved its latest round of funding for child care at a Jan. 11 meeting, but the funds didn’t go into effect until Feb. 1. The $120,00 covers a temporary reduction in cost for the Breckenridge Child Care Tuition Assistance Program and a one-month 25% credit that families can use at child care centers in the town.

“It’s a no-brainer,” council member Jeffery Bergeron said at the Jan. 11 meeting. “These are some of the most vulnerable people in our workforce, and these are unprecedented times.”

From February through September 2022, families who participate in the tuition assistance program have to pay 10% to 13% of their total income for child care. Until now, those families were required to pay 13% to 16% of their income.

The money isn’t the first time the council has invested in child care since the start of the pandemic. In November 2020, the town gave $75,000 to local families to help with child care expenses.

Child care in Summit County is often unaffordable. Breckenridge officials estimate that local parents pay $1,800 per month on average for five-day care at licensed child care facilities. For most families in the county, that amounts to 20% to 30% of their total income. Child care is considered affordable when it costs no more than 7% of a family’s total income, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The cost of child care and housing are a family’s biggest challenges in being able to work and live in Summit County,” said Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options.

Vaccines have eased quarantine and isolation requirements for children ages 5 and older, but families with children ages birth to 4 continue to struggle with near constant disruptions because of the virus. Unvaccinated people, which includes anyone under 5 years old, have to quarantine every time they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, according to the Summit County Public Health Department.

“While the parents of elementary or high school students are getting some relief on the quarantine front, our parents are not,” said Greta Shackelford, executive director of Little Red Schoolhouse in Breckenridge and member of the town’s Child Care Advisory Committee. “It’s just been a lot of time and missed work for parents because of the quarantines.”

The situation has also led to disruptions to the operations at child care centers as children are placed in quarantine. Shackelford said three of the six classrooms at Little Red are in partial quarantine this week.

Child care tuition often works like rent, where families have to pay the bill each month regardless of the amount of time their child actually spent at the center. Town council members hope the funds ease some of the financial strain parents are experiencing every time their child is quarantined.

Burns and Shackelford said the funds are especially helpful in improving morale among families throughout Breckenridge.

“We don’t, as a nonprofit, have the financial capabilities to support each and every family individually that has been repetitively told they have to stay home,” Shackelford said. “It’s huge to be able to give the parents anything at this point.”

While the pandemic will eventually come to an end, Summit County officials expect child care expenses to be a long-term problem.

Other local governments have worked to provide more options for families. The Summit County government offers a child care assistance program for local families with 4-year-olds entering pre-kindergarten, and the town of Frisco has been considering a tuition assistance program similar to the one in Breckenridge. Burns said she has been working with Dillon and Silverthorne town leaders, as well, to come up with a countywide program.

“The more we can do to make child care accessible and affordable as a public investment in our workforce, the better off we will be,” she said.

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