State dealing with $18 million hole in child assistance-daycare budget |

State dealing with $18 million hole in child assistance-daycare budget

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Nevada lawmakers were told Thursday there’s an $18 million hole in the budget that pays child care for welfare recipients and low-income families seeking work.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said those trying to get off welfare and become productive citizens are the ones who will suffer as a result.

The original budget by Human Resources officials overstated federal funding by $9 million next year and $9.1 million in fiscal 2005.

Leslie said the agency increased benefits and lowered eligibility requirements, spending all of the money it had over the past two years.

“It was mismanagement,” she said.

Lawmakers were told the shortfall will significantly increase waiting lists for services over the next two years, forcing the state to increase eligibility requirements and cut back services.

That means welfare clients in the non-needy caretaker and kinship care programs will have to face income tests to qualify for help, and those who are newly back to work will get daycare support only six months instead of a year. Families with income below the poverty level will have to pay about $11 a month per child, and those who now get benefits but are self-employed at home will lose the benefits.

Those and other changes to the program will reduce the shortfall about $2 million a year. But staff said that won’t be enough.

“The savings from the above measures will not be sufficient to cover the entire amount of the federal child-care funds that were overstated,” says a staff analysis. “Therefore, waiting lists for services in the discretionary and at-risk populations will grow.”

At a 1 percent growth rate, staff estimates the waiting lists will total 4,199 by the end of fiscal 2005.

Leslie said it will be harder for the needy to qualify for day-care assistance and, even then, people may find themselves on a waiting list instead of receiving services.

“Who’s going to get hurt? The woman who has to give up a job because she doesn’t have day care,” said Leslie. “I’m really upset at this.”