HELENA — A recent bill passed by the Montana legislature has created changes to the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship which could affect your family.
The scholarship is a state program that helps families afford child care. The changes, which began this month, are in place because of House Bill 648. Changes allow for more Montanans to receive the scholarship by opening up the eligibility requirements from 150% of the federal poverty level up to 185%.
“Prior to this bill, a single parent with one child could not make more than about $13.50/hour. Well, we see everywhere now is not, they’re paying way more than that, so there were a lot of families that were not eligible for the scholarship. And so, they were stuck between taking a lower income job or having, staying at home and, you know, not having child care because they couldn’t afford it. And so, really we advocated for increasing the sliding fee scale so that more families were able to stay in the workforce and have child care available,” says Assistant Director & Family Services Supervisor for Child Care Connections, Kami Ryles.
Families will now also pay a reduced copayment, limited to a maximum of 9% of the family’s monthly income based on family size. Additionally, a new child care attendance policy was also enacted. These changes allow more families to access child care at a lower cost thus helping to fill out the workforce and keeping children safe while families are away.
“I think this benefits a lot more families and makes them eligible and for them to stay in the workforce, like I said, you have to be working or attending school in order to obtain the Best Beginnings Scholarship. So, when we are seeing businesses struggle to employ individuals, this is just another step in getting those families and parents in the workforce, staying in the workforce, increasing their hours, and knowing that their children are in child care and are being taken care of by quality providers,” says Ryles.
Due to these recent changes, Child Care Connections encourages folks who have been denied in the past to reapply for the scholarship.