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Colorado Democrats Want To Tackle State’s Child Care Problems

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DENVER (CBS4) – Child care for families trying to make ends meet can be tough. Now there’s a new push to help families pay that big bill.

Colorado has the fifth most expensive child care in the country, costing an average of $14,000 a year per child. Over the next several months lawmakers will introduce a package of bills aimed at helping raise quality and lower cost.

Like many parents, Shanora Ali agonized over putting her son in day care. She’s a single mom who’s working to save money for college.

“And make a better future, not only for myself, but for my son,” Ali said.

She says the cost of child care almost makes having a job not worth it.

“It’s around $1,200 to $1,500. That’s kind of ball-parking it,” Ali said.

As an incentive to keep parents like Ali in the workforce, the state set up the Child Care Assistance Program years ago. But the way it works, if Ali makes over $28,000 a year, she’s cut off. The threshold varies throughout the state. In some counties she’d be cutoff at $20,000.

“A 25-cent raise you wouldn’t think a lot, but it’s a lot when comes to assistance programs,” Ali said. “You’re at this limit, you no longer qualify.”

“It’s a disincentive to work, we’re trying to create more incentives for folks to work,” said Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.

Kefalas is carrying a bill to fix the so-called cliff effect by gradually reducing assistance as a families wages increase, and standardizing the threshold. He’s also introduced legislation allowing families who make less than $25,000 a year to apply for a child care tax credit.

“We’re talking about working families,” Kefalas said. “We’re helping them get beyond paycheck to paycheck.”

And eventually to self-sufficiency.

“I don’t plan on being on government assistance for rest of my life,” Ali said. “This is why I need it now, so can move forward and progress.”

Availability of child care is another problem in Colorado. There are slots for less than half of children under six who need it. There will also be bills to address that.

All the legislation is sponsored by Democrats. Republicans say they’re concerned with the cost, which will be steep for some of the bills.

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