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How Mountain West states are trying to reduce child care costs

A preschool teacher is sitting cross-legged on the floor, reading Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to a group of children. She is wearing a mask.
Kaleb Roedel
KUNR Public Radio
A teacher at MunchkinLand Preschool, a child care provider in Reno, Nev., reads to a group of children in November 2021.

During the pandemic, efforts have increased to address the national child care crisis. Several states in the Mountain West are taking steps to reduce the cost of care for low-income families.

With the child care system in crisis, Nevada on Thursday, July 7, became the latest state in the Mountain West to try to reduce the cost of care for low-income families.

Nevada is investing $50 million to help cover copays for families using state-subsidized child care programs, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced.

Nevada is also expanding eligibility for child care assistance. Previously, only families making up to 130% of the federal poverty level could qualify for subsidies. Now, families making up to 200% of the poverty level can qualify.

Maria Mendoza, subsidy coordinator at the Children’s Cabinet, a Nevada non-profit that provides child care subsidy assistance, says the new funding and eligibility threshold will not only help families but also providers.

“Sometimes parents don’t pay or can’t afford it,” Mendoza said of child care costs. “So, it’ll guarantee more funding for providers, allowing them to hire more staff with that security that they will get the funds.”

Other states in the region are also increasing access to care.

In the spring, New Mexico announced that families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level – $111,000 for a family of four – can qualify for free child care. Previously, cost-free care was available to families at 200% or below.

Colorado, meanwhile, started a grant program in March to supply nearly $23 million to child care providers to help lower costs for families.

Montana allocated $61 million in federal pandemic aid to a grant program to boost the state's child care sector – and demand is so high that the grants are less than half the amount the state health department originally projected, as Montana Public Radio reported on Thursday.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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