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Kansas extending reach of COVID-19 childcare, food assistance; here’s how to apply

TOPEKA — Low-income Kansans will have wider access to childcare assistance tied to federal aid authorized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said Thursday.

The Hero Relief Child Care Assistance Program implemented last year to assist essential workers with the cost of caring for children will be modified to include more Kansas workers.

“Parents have faced additional challenges because of the pandemic, and it was important to me that we provide meaningful assistance to families,” said Laura Howard, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

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Adjustments to the program mean any Kansas worker employed an average of 20 hours per week and making 250% or less of the federal poverty level would qualify. The family share deduction for essential workers was waived and the deduction for other people was reduced. The eligibility period was extended from six months to 12 months. Instructions for applying are available at www.ksherorelief.com.

In addition, Gov. Laura Kelly said nearly $50 million in federal COVID-19 funding would be distributed in partnership with Child Care Aware of Kansas to help struggling childcare operators. Grant awards to facilities licensed and in good standing with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment could range from $60,000 for large childcare centers to $5,000 for family childcare operations.

Applications can be submitted July 1 to July 30 through the Child Care Aware of Kansas website at www.ks.childcareaware.org. The money could be used for normal business expenses, extraordinary costs to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on mitigating spread of COVID-19 and for other needs tied to resumption or continuation of childcare business operations.

Previously, the governor directed DCF to extend emergency food benefits to households in Kansas through Dec. 31 or end of the federal public health emergency declaration. The decision is expected to add $14.5 million in SNAP grocery benefits per month across Kansas by increasing a household’s monthly benefit.

“While Kansas continues its steady return to normal, the pandemic caused challenges for families and many still need support,” Kelly said.

Individuals enrolled in the SNAP program don’t have to apply to receive the supplemental assistance. Anyone interested in applying can visit the DCF website at www.dcf.ks.gov.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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