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Memorandum of Support

Empire Justice Memo of Support: Disregard Teen Earnings When Determining Child Care Eligibility

A.5843a (Jaffee)/ S.4116 (Savino)

This bill would add a new subdivision to Social Services Law 410-w which would require that the earned income of a child under the age of 21 be disregarded when determining the eligibility of a household for a child care subsidy.

When determining financial eligibility for public assistance, the general rule is to look at the size of the household and the income of those in the household.  The income of children under the age of 18 is disregarded.  In contrast, when determining eligibility for a child care subsidy, only the income of a child under the age of 14 is disregarded.  The income of children between the ages of 14 and 18 is counted and local districts are provided the option of whether to allow local districts to determine whether to count the income of 18, 19 or 20 year olds when determining a parent’s financial eligibility for child care for a younger child in the household.  This is in direct contrast to public assistance eligibility, where the income of older teens (18, 19 and 20 year olds) is disregarded, but they are included in the household size for determining the financial need of the family. [1]   This bill proposes that a similar rule be adopted for child care budgeting unless doing so would disadvantage the family.

Currently there is no uniform state policy on how to budget the income of older teens when calculating the eligibility of the family for child care subsidy, and as a result, local policy varies dramatically across the state.  Local districts have the option of considering the income of these young adults when determining the financial eligibility of their parents and younger siblings for a child care subsidy. [2]  Thirty districts opt to count an 18, 19, or 20 year old child residing at home as part of the child care household (called the “services unit” in state regulations) when calculating the family’s eligibility for child care subsidy benefits.  Of these 30, three-quarters apply the rule only when it benefits the family.  This would happen when the adult child is not earning income and counting that child would increase the household size, respectively decreasing the family’s co-payment.  For example, a three-person family with annual earnings of $25,000, where one parent has an 18-year-old child and a 4-year-old child, would pay a family share of $2,590 per year in a county where the family share is 35%.  The same family would pay a family share of $3,850 per year if the 18-year-old child was not included in the child care services unit.

Additionally, eight districts will count the adult child in the household under some specific set of circumstances.  Suffolk and Otsego Counties always count the adult child in the child care services unit.  Allegany County will always count an 18 year old child, but not a 19 or 20 year old child.  Chemung, Putnam, and Columbia Counties will always count a child who is enrolled in school.  St. Lawrence County will count an adult child who is enrolled in school full time or a child with a disability.

In each of these counties, a risk arises that the presence of the adult child in the household could harm the family for the purpose of calculating child care subsidy benefits because any income earned by the adult child would be included as part of the family income.  This rule effectively results in a requirement that 19-20 year olds in low income families apply their earnings to the cost of child care for their younger siblings.  This policy also penalizes the parent with a higher copayment when a child fails to make their income available.  In seven counties (Allegany, Chemung, Columbia, Otsego, Putnam, St. Lawrence and Suffolk) 18-20 year olds must apply their earnings to the cost of child care for their younger siblings.  In our previous example, a three person family comprised of one parent earning $25,000 per year, an 18 year old child, and a 4 year old child, the family share will vary significantly if the 18 year old child has even a part time job earning minimum wage.  If the 18 year old child earns $3,718 per year ($7.15 per hour, 10 hours per week for 52 weeks) and this income is counted as part of the family’s total income, the family share or copayment, will be $3,891 per year by comparison to the $2,590 per year family share if the adult child is not counted against the family.  When the adult child is unconditionally counted as part of the child care services unit, a family with an adult child who works will pay a larger family share than a family whose adult child does not work.

In no other social welfare program do we have budgeting rules which vary based upon the choice of the county, a choice which can be changed simply by amending their consolidated services plan. [3]

Empire Justice Center strongly supports the passage of this bill.

End Notes:
 [1] N.Y. Social Services Law §§ 131-a(8), 131-a(10).
 [2] 18 NYCRR 415.1(l).
 [3] See 09 OCFS LCM-13.

This memo was prepared by:

Susan C. Antos

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 

(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852