PHOENIX — Nearly a year after Arizona received $56 million in federal aid for child care, Gov. Doug Ducey is calling on lawmakers to authorize its use.
The funding, which lawmakers failed to approve last spring, would expand the state’s child-care assistance to an estimated 5,100 children in low-income working families and foster care. It also would boost the rate the state pays to caregivers by 17 percent, according to Governor’s Office estimates.
Ducey is including the spending in his Friday budget proposal. It mirrors a request made last fall by the state Department of Economic Security, which oversees the child-care program.
It is still unclear why lawmakers balked at approving the extra money, made available last year by Congress through a child-care development block grant. The funding does not require matching funds from Arizona, and the families that qualify for the program have to make copayments.
Arizona last raised child-care rates in 2000, making the money it pays to child-care providers the oldest rate in the nation. Ducey proposes to split the federal grant evenly between a rate increase and an expansion of the number of children the program serves.
The increased funding could reduce the size of the child-care wait list, which currently has 1,000 children.
But it also could increase interest from the lower-income families who qualify, said Christina Corieri, a senior policy adviser to Ducey. That’s because families have been discouraged from applying since the wait is so long — up to eight months by state estimates.
If lawmakers approve the budget request, Arizona’s reimbursement pay to child-care centers would top out at $775 a month, putting it ahead of state payment levels in nearby states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.