News Briefs

Kansas extending reach of COVID-19 child care, food assistance

By: - July 1, 2021 12:41 pm
Laura Howard, secretary for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, settled with a coalition of civil rights organizations to improve opportunity for people in specialized nursing homes for the mentally ill to reside and receive improved services in community-based housing. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

A federal jduge order the state to pay more than $2.2 million in court costs of a 2018 lawsuit. DCF Secretary Laura Howard, said the agency is well on its way to meeting requirements from the settlement of that lawsuit. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Low-income Kansans will have wider access to child care assistance tied to federal aid authorized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said Thursday.

The Hero Relief Child Care Assistance Program implemented last year to assist essential workers with the cost of caring for children will be modified to include more Kansas workers.

“Parents have faced additional challenges because of the pandemic, and it was important to me that we provide meaningful assistance to families,” said Laura Howard, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Adjustments to the program mean any Kansas worker employed an average of 20 hours per week and making 250% or less of the federal poverty level would qualify. The family share deduction for essential workers was waived and the deduction for other people was reduced. The eligibility period was extended from six months to 12 months. Instructions for applying are available at www.ksherorelief.com.

In addition, Gov. Laura Kelly said nearly $50 million in federal COVID-19 funding would be distributed in partnership with Child Care Aware of Kansas to help struggling child-care operators. Grant awards to facilities licensed and in good standing with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment could range from $60,000 for large child-care centers to $5,000 for family child-care operations.

Applications can be submitted July 1 to July 30 through the Child Care Aware of Kansas website at www.ks.childcareaware.org. The money could be used for normal business expenses, extraordinary costs to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on mitigating spread of COVID-19 and for other needs tied to resumption or continuation of child-care business operations.

Previously, the governor directed DCF to extend emergency food benefits to households in Kansas through Dec. 31 or end of the federal public health emergency declaration. The decision is expected to add $14.5 million in SNAP grocery benefits per month across Kansas by increasing a household’s monthly benefit.

“While Kansas continues its steady return to normal, the pandemic caused challenges for families and many still need support,” Kelly said.

Individuals enrolled in the SNAP program don’t have to apply to receive the supplemental assistance. Anyone interested in applying can visit the DCF website at www.dcf.ks.gov.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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