33 percent more children are receiving child care assistance in San Juan County than in 2015

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FARMINGTON — New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson attributes an increase in children receiving child care assistance to the success of the Pull Together campaign launched in 2016.

The Pull Together campaign focused on simplifying the processfor parents to find resources and encouraging community involvement. 

The number of children enrolled in child care using state assistance since 2015 increased by nearly 17 percent statewide. San Juan County has seen a much larger increase — 33 percent.

According to CYFD spokesman Henry Varela, 717 children in San Juan County received child care assistance in 2015. Now 956 children receive assistance. The county saw the second largest increase in the state, according to Varela.

During a phone interview, Jacobson said she thinks the increase is due to more awareness rather than increased need. This is because the program has been underutilized in the past.

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While more than 27,500 children received child care assistance during federal fiscal year 2016, an estimated 96,000 children are eligible for assistance, according to the 2016 New Mexico Child Care Data Report.

The report is compiled by the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research and CYFD.

Jacobson said adding the "am I eligible" online tool helped determine if they qualify for CYFD services, including child care assistance. Eligibility for child care assistance is based on income and employment. The family income must be less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and parents must be going to school, in a job training program or working. 

The federal poverty line for a family of four is $24,600. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, approximately 23.5 percent of San Juan County children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty line. 

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Jacobson said child care allows parents to go to school or work without worrying about if their child will be safe. She said child care availability could help decrease the number of families living below the federal poverty line.

"I believe that child care is one of the greatest tools that we have," Jacobson said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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