(WTAJ)–Childcare across the commonwealth is still in high demand and as school approaches the final days, the need grows higher.

The Center for Community Action’s Early Learning Resource Center can relieve parents and guardians in finding care and helping with costs. The Center is a hub aimed at providing childcare information and help. The Early Learning Resource Center region six covers Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset.

Child Care Works is one of the programs available to low-income working families that can help find and pay for childcare. It is a state and federal program managed by the local Early Learning Resource Center. 

Early Learning Resource Center Region Six Director Amy Streightiff said the program pays part of the child care fee. Then, the family pays the difference, which is called a family co-pay. 

“We help them pay a portion of that cost.,”Streightiff said. “We try to get them a facility that is monitored by the state for health and safety reasons. As well as, following ratios for children.”

Streightiff described the current state of the industry as poor. The industry continues to face the ongoing challenges of staff shortages. Streightiff said they’re not getting many applicants because of the little pay and the limited health benefits of the daycare. 

Then the issue of the waitlists in providers because they have to maintain the staff-to-child ratio for certain age groups. Additionally, their business depends on the number of children enrolled in the daycare at one point. 

Eligibility Manager Jane Babiak said this program can help single parents, teens, those who are homeless, guardians, and all those that are needing childcare. However, people must apply for the program and meet the guidelines for the program which include:

  • You must live in Pennsylvania
  • Have a child or children who need a child care while you work and/or attend an education program
  • Meet income guidelines for your family size
  • Work an average of 20 or more hours a week – or- Work 10 hours a week and attend a certified school/training program for 10 hours a week
  • Teen parents need only to attend an education program to obtain a high school diploma or GED
  • The child who needs care must be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residency
  • Have proof of identification for each parent or caretaker in the home.

Babiak said the program’s payment for families varies depending on their size and their income. Your co-pay only changes if there are any changes to your income negative or positive. 

“Once they are eligible, the State of Pennsylvania gives us a guideline. So if someone is between $900 and $2000, they may have a co-pay of $5,” Babiak said. “It goes up every so many thousands of dollars. So it can go anywhere between $5 and $100.”

If you meet the guidelines, the ELRC will send a Child Care Eligible Notice. Afterward, you have 30 days to meet with an ELRC worker, select a childcare provider, and then enroll your child.

Streightiff said finding childcare is a challenge for parents nowadays. Their team is experts in suiting the needs of the family and finding a convenient provider. 

“Parents do have a hard time finding,” Streightiff said. “Sometimes, it’s out of their way, or it’s not on the bus route. Or it’s not someplace they can get to easily. If you can’t find childcare, you can’t go to work. You can’t go to some sort of training program.”

Babiak said their offices also work to provide other resources, including transportation, doctors, physicians, and schools. For childcare providers, the ELRC offers the Pennsylvania Keystone STARS program. This program helps providers through training and resources so they can be better quality providers. 

“Subsidy is out there and we can work with families to see if they’re eligible for childcare. Childcare helps the working family stay employed. We also can share resources for transportation and information that they need.”

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Those who believe they’re eligible can apply online at the COMPASS website or reach out to your local ELRC for guidance or this number (800) 323-9997. More information about the program can be found here