For the next two years, New Mexico will raise the income eligibility for childcare assistance from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 350 percent of the federal poverty level with a phase out at 400 percent of the federal poverty level, officials announced Thursday.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Early Childcare Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and state Sen. Michael Padilla spoke during a press conference Thursday to announce the change. The press conference was also part of a one-year anniversary celebration for ECECD, which is an agency that began under the Lujan Grisham administration to improve early childcare education. The press conference was held in Santa Fe and online.
The department will use emergency funds available through the federal American Rescue Plan to increase the assistance starting August 1. Groginsky spoke about how this will be better for parents but also for businesses because it could enable parents who have had to stay at home because of childcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic to return to work.
Lujan Grisham said she would like to see universal access to childcare in the future and spoke about the importance of investing in children. She also talked about the high cost of child care.
There will be a phase out for assistance if the family earns 400 percent of the poverty level, according to a department statement. This is intended to help parents who receive a modest income increase from losing assistance.
Groginsky also announced that childcare service providers will receive new childcare subsidy rates, effective immediately.
“We’re going to set the subsidy for what it actually costs to provide early childcare,” Groginsky said.
The increase is expected to enable childcare providers to improve quality, expand offerings and expand access to care, Groginsky said.
New Mexico is the first state, along with the District of Columbia, to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use the cost estimation model that is the basis of the new rates to providers, according to the statement.
“This is the single largest eligibility expansion in the history of our child care assistance program,” Lujan Grisham said in the statement. “And this change establishes virtually universal free or reduced-cost childcare in New Mexico for at least the next two years as our economy recovers and New Mexicans get back to work.”