Jan 06, 2016

CAFÉ Web Portal Simplifies Application Process for Child Care Assistance

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today announced a planned increase in Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) benefits takes effect this month. The plan, recommended last summer by the Early Childhood Advisory Council and approved by Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, helps low-income families better afford quality early child care and raises funding levels for qualified child care centers and teachers. The increase comes as the state launches a simplified application process for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), allowing families to apply online for early childhood benefits through the launch of the CAFÉ web portal.

“The increase in funding and simplification of the application process greatly benefits families with parents that work or are in school that need help to afford quality child care,” said State Superintendent John White. “CAFÉ streamlines the process, helping us to operate more efficiently, serve more families expeditiously, and ensures our children have access to the best possible child care.”

The plan increases the stipend available to parents to pay publicly-funded child care centers by up to 250 percent, making child care more affordable for families and allowing centers to increase teacher pay and improve teacher training. The plan, part of the statewide effort to unify the system of early childhood education and to prepare all children for kindergarten, also puts an end to the longstanding practice of stopping child care assistance when a parent or guardian loses a job.

The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides federal funds to help low-income families pay for child care while working or attending school or training. Several barriers have prevented low-income families from obtaining quality child care, however:

  • The CCAP stipend for most Louisiana families averages only 28 percent of the amount provided for pre-K programs, often making child care unaffordable for the poor.
  • Low payments also lead to low teacher pay, a barrier to attracting and keeping trained educators.
  • Families with children in child care lose CCAP payments immediately if a parent loses a job.

The BESE-approved plan changes these conditions:

  • Before, most low-income families were paying nearly $100 in out-of-pocket costs. The approved policy reduces that out-of-pocket cost to less than $40 a week. For a typical low-income family below the poverty level, a co-payment would no longer be required and the out-of-pocket costs drops to below $25 a week.
  • The increase in funding comes from existing funds available within the federal Child Care Development Fund grant. Child care assistance has been reduced by 60 percent since 2008-2009, making it harder for families to qualify and less affordable for those that do. The result has been a growing carryover in the federal funding, which will now be used to support these changes.
  • Under the approved policy, families will remain eligible for CCAP for at least one year regardless of changes in work or school status. No family would have their CCAP payments stop should they need to find a new job or they are on a break from school. Payments will continue through the entire year of eligibility ensuring children are able to attend for a full school year.

These changes help create a more level playing field for child care providers. Since Act 3 was signed in 2012, child care providers have stepped up to higher expectations such as new teacher credentials and a unified rating and improvement system. This funding recognizes and supports their efforts to improve quality, thus increasing options for families and benefiting children from birth to five-years-old. For more information on the improvements to CCAP, please click here.

In addition to the funding increases, the Department has streamlined the application process for families seeking help paying for quality child care through the Child Care Assistance Program. Until now, families relied on the mail to apply and receive updates on the status of their CCAP application. With the launch of the CAFÉ application portal, parents can file an application, submit key documents to the Department, and check the status of their application online.

In the coming months, child care providers will also be able to apply or renew licensing or child care assistance certifications online.

To apply for CCAP through the online CAFÉ web portal, please click here.

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