Rep. Alice Buckley, D-Bozeman, discusses one of her three bills aimed at bolstering the child care industry in Montana heard on the House floor on Monday, April 3, 2023, ahead of Tuesday’s transmittal deadline. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)
Child advocates in Montana are celebrating the new daycare assistance law, House Bill 648, which provides additional support for families struggling with the cost of childcare and will allow even more parents to apply for scholarships to help cover those costs.
The law makes changes to the Best Beginnings scholarship program and includes a new sliding scale for copayments based on income and it expands the eligibility criteria. Under the bill, families making up to 185% of the federal poverty level will qualify - for a single parent with one child - that's just under $36,500 a year and for a family of four - it's $55,500 a year.
The bill also caps the co-pay at 9% of a families' monthly income. After COVID funds ran out last year, many families saw their co-pay rise to $1000 a month.
The bill's author, Alice Buckley of Bozeman, estimates that the new caps will increase the number of eligible parents by 25%. The bill also ensures more stable payments to childcare providers and has been praised for addressing the challenges faced by families and the childcare industry.