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UI offers more child-care aid

BY HOLLY HINES | NOVEMBER 17, 2009 7:21 AM

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James Vineburgh needs childcare.

The UI doctoral student and father of two commutes to Iowa City from Cedar Rapids for classes, and his wife works as a full-time school teacher.

“Without childcare, I wouldn’t be in a position to be in school at all,” he said.

Since 2006, Vineburgh has paid for preschool and daycare for his children in part by using the UI’s Child Care Subsidy Programs, which reimburse eligible students for part of their cost to have someone watch their children while they’re unable to do so.

And Vineburgh isn’t alone.

Interest in the subsidy has recently increased, said Jane Holland, a program associate for UI Family Services.

The number of students using the programs this year is 221; last year, it served 199 — an 11 percent spike.

While most students apply for the subsidy earlier in the fall semester, Holland said officials may see an even larger increase as the year progresses.

The increase may be because of the addition of an online application, she said, noting that previously, students submitted it in-person.

Recent economic concerns may have also been a factor, Holland said.

“Maybe the students aren’t able to locate the jobs they had in the past,” she said.

The program typically awards students with younger children the higher subsides, which can run up to $210 this year. This year’s amounts are up between $25 and $30 to keep up with the rising costs of childcare, Holland said.

Vineburgh said he wasn’t fully prepared for the costs associated with going back to school. Without the subsidy, he and his wife would not have been comfortable with the quality of childcare they could have afforded, he said.

He continued using the subsidy this year because it has worked well for him in the past, he said, and it has been more helpful given the recession.

“It couldn’t come at a better time,” he said.

This year, Vineburgh enrolled his 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son in Cedar Rapids-based Cedar Valley Montessori preschool program and St. Paul’s Early Childhood Program, respectively.
The UI’s childcare subsidies aren’t the only ones available to students.

Roughly 10,900 families in Iowa have received childcare assistance this year, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.

One of these state services, the Child Care Assistance Program — run through the Iowa Department of Human Services — offers subsidies to parents whose incomes are below the poverty rate, or $26,500 annually.

But unlike the UI’s services, it hasn’t seen an increase in parents using the subsidy this year, said Roger Munns, spokesman for the Department of Human Services.

To be eligible for the state subsidy, parents must work at least 20 hours a week, he said. At the UI, students must be seeking a degree and must be enrolled at least half-time — less if they have an equivalent academic responsibility, according to the Family Services website.

Family Services can award a subsidy to students at any point during the school year, as long as funding is available.


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