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Park City finalizing details for local child care support

Three-quarters of Summit County children live in homes with two working parents.
oksix - stock.adobe.com
Three-quarters of Summit County children live in homes with two working parents.

Parents swarmed Park City Council chambers earlier this year to voice concerns about rising child care tuition and urge the city to help them. As a result the council earmarked $1 million during its recent budget process to help stabilize the child care market, which is dealing with reductions in federal funding.

A committee provided recommendations to the city council Tuesday about how exactly to spend that money.

“The working group has strategically focused on addressing the issue in two separate phases,” Park City Resident Advocate Michelle Downard said.

“Phase one is the immediate emergency needs-based scholarship program. And then phase two is the near-term capacity building child care industry support… During the fiscal year ‘24 budget adoption process, council allocated funds to child care. However, council was very clear that no funds would be distributed until a transparent and accountable process was established for how to utilize those funds.” 

Most of the money would go towards the scholarship program, which would act as a tuition subsidy for parents. The payments would be sent directly to providers, which are required to be a regulated child care provider in Summit County.

According to the policy recommendations, the scholarships would only be available to 84060 residents with a household income less than Summit County’s area median income or AMI, which is about $149,000 for a four person household.

The city is in the process of recruiting a program administrator for the scholarships, which Park City Mayor Nann Worel said she’s happy about.

“One of the things that I’m excited about with having an outside entity do the administration of this program is it’s a skill to sensitively qualify people financially,” Worel said. “I know from my time at the People’s Health Clinic where we worked with Holy Cross Ministries to qualify pregnant ladies for emergency Medicaid, and the amount of hand holding that needed to happen because the government forms can be so confusing.”

A majority of the council said they supported giving the administrator the flexibility to raise the AMI limit for the scholarships if demand is low.

The financial requirements are less stringent for scholarships for children younger than 36 months. The $200 monthly assistance per child would be available to households making up to 150% of area median income, and would be open to Park City workers who live out of town.

Another part of Park City’s plan involves getting qualified people to use a subsidy offered by Utah’s Department of Workforce Services (DWS).

Early Childhood Alliance Director Kristen Schultz estimated that only 10% of eligible families who live in the community actually capitalize on the free child care funds.

“A majority of the families have no idea that it’s even out there, that’s one problem,” Schultz said. “It is a cumbersome application process, it’s a lot of requirements. If you are a self-employed individual, they make it - in my opinion - very difficult to approve your income… And then as a third barrier, oftentimes even if you do qualify and are awarded the subsidy, it can be hard to find a spot at a provider that accepts the subsidy.”

More information on the DWS child care subsidy can be found here. The council will return at a later date to finalize the requirements and details of the scholarship program.