Utah policy prohibits children born in the United States from accessing federal child care benefits


Utah receives $ 110 million each year in federal grants to help low-income families meet the costs of child care and preschool education. The funds are distributed to daycares to cover the costs of low-income children.

Last year, child care advocates, including the Early Childhood Alliance, challenged the Utah DWS over its policy allowing the use of an immigration database to determine the eligibility for child care subsidies. Early Childhood Alliance executive director Kristen Schulz said federal guidelines do not allow parents’ immigration status to be part of the equation for children born in the United States

On September 30, the Federal Administration’s Office of Child Care for Children and Families ordered the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which distributes the money, to stop verifying the citizenship to decide who receives benefits.

As of October 1, the DWS can no longer verify immigration status; but the new policy requires parents to declare that they are legally receiving wages.

Office of Child Care Director Rebecca Banner said the DWS has stopped using the immigration database. But she defended the new requirement for parents to declare that they are legally paid.

“Federal regulations require that a child live in a home where the parents work. And then each state has the capacity to define the work. And our definition of work includes that wages must be obtained legally. There are other policies that use statutory wages. as part of their definition of work. Thus, Utah is not the only state to do so. “

Schulz said she did some research and couldn’t find any other state withholding grants to undocumented working parents. She said several children’s advocacy organizations were concerned about how the DWS interprets eligibility and that the federal guidelines are straightforward.

“They want these funds to support these children. Utah is doing everything possible to find a way to deny access to these children and they are doing it through the mechanism of their definition of work. “

Schulz said the new policy still does not comply with federal rules and denies U.S. citizens access to a federal program.

“Utah has the discretion to define the job. And so for some states it would be things like the number of hours per week and you know different documentation requirements. Utah deliberately added that the wages are obtained legally, in my mind specifically to exclude these children. “

The Utah Department of Workforce Services Office of Child Care has received $ 574 million in COVID relief funds, of which $ 374 million is earmarked for various programs and $ 200 million remain in reserve.

Fifteen children in Summit County and 41 in Wasatch County used the child care grant in 2020, but these numbers are not a full tally of children who may be eligible.

Holy Cross Ministries CEO Emmie Gardner said there was no way of knowing how many families could benefit from the program. She said mixed-status families are eligible for other social protection programs like Medicare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“It’s so strange for this component, which then allows our families to work, contribute to the economy and pay taxes. But they need quality child care. It is this piece within of DWS that they hold on tight. Too bad. It’s like we’re not giving them, you know, an advantage for their children. “

Schulz said Utah is replacing one set of procedural hurdles with another – and the entire community, including small business owners who run child care centers and employers who need workers but can’t find them – are absent.

According to Voices for Utah Children, Summit County has nearly 600 children under the age of 18 living below the poverty line. Wasatch County has 670.

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