Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Georgia Goldburn, director of Hope Child Development Center in New Haven and Beth Bye, commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — For the first time in 17 years, child care centers across the state that accept Care4Kids, a state and federal subsidy program for working parents, will see a significant increase in their rates.

Thanks to $14 million in new federal Child Care Development funds an estimated 1,200 childcare centers across the state will receive increases for children with Care4Kids certificates.

That means a center in Hartford will see their rates increase from $201 per week to $308 per week for an infant or toddler. The rate for preschoolers in Hartford will go from $160 to $203 per week.

The increase will allow parents to access to more childcare centers and help them pay less for care, while increasing staff wages and professional development opportunities.

There are currently about 18,000 children participating in the Care4Kids program. Their parents must be working and must make less than 50 percent of the median state income — $56,250 for a family of four — in order to qualify.

Beth Bye, commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, said they are taking those federal dollars and getting them in the classroom by increasing infant and toddler rates and opening up more opportunities for care.

Bye said Connecticut is short 50,000 infant and toddler spaces for parents who need to get to work and this is the best way to build capacity by paying centers a “fair” rate.

Georgia Goldburn, director of Hope Child Development in New Haven, said the increase in assistance will help parents be able to afford care since the Care 4 Kids subsidy doesn’t cover the full cost of tuition at her center.

Goldburn said they have a $20,000 grant program that was helping parents cover an additional $26 to $35 per week for their childcare and now that money can help the 30 percent of students who currently don’t qualify for Care 4 Kids.

She said it means every parent who sends their child to her center will see a $20 to $40 per week decrease in their tuition whether they receive Care 4 Kids or not.

She said they will use the increase in federal funds to increase the wages of teachers by about 20 percent.

And the teachers in the program, who are on Care 4 Kids, won’t lose the subsidy because Connecticut now allows them to stay on the program if they see an increase in their wages up to 65 percent of Connecticut’s median income, which is around $73,000 a year for a family of four.

“So many times they would say to me don’t give me a raise, just decrease my tuition,” Goldburn said.

She said the additional money means one of her teachers will go from paying $76 per week to $0 and another will go from paying $50 per week to paying $9.

“That’s an increase in income for that family,” Goldburn said.

Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said childcare needs to be thought about as infrastructure.

“For parents who need to get to work that childcare is as important as that road or bridge they travel to get to work,” Gay said. “We need to invest in that early childhood infrastructure.”

He said that would help more families get to work and it would help Connecticut’s economic engine thrive.

“If we short-change our children, we short-change our future,” Gay said.

Karen Lott, executive director of the Women’s League Child Development Center, said the rate increase will have a direct impact on the high-quality of care they are able to provide.

“This gives us the ability to invest in our programming,” Lott said. “This is an ability for us to make sure that our staff has the highest degree of professional development and that our children have access to tools in the classroom that are really going to give them that spark in brain development and creativity.”