Lincoln Littles to address childcare benefits cliff

The first ever Lincoln Littles giving day, held on February 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, raised $637,397. Hosted by Lincoln Community Foundation, in partnership with Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, the giving day raised funds for tuition assistance, which will allow more children in need to access quality early childhood education. The giving day and fund is a significant development toward the Prosper Lincoln Early Childhood community agenda goal of increasing accessible and affordable high-quality early childhood education.

Eleven early childhood education providers will receive funding from Lincoln Littles to provide tuition assistance to low-income families. Those providers have indicated that they can serve more children from low income families with help from the Lincoln Littles Fund.

One family contacted Fingerprints Child Development Center, a pre-qualified Lincoln Littles provider. Due to a modest increase in salary, the family no longer qualified for child care subsidy and had to leave their current center because they could not afford tuition. “They are shuffling the children, ages 2 & 4 years old, around between family members and their schedules,” said Prudence Devney, Director.

Many families fall off this “benefits cliff” creating a financial strain and stressful situation. A promotion or even slight cost-of-living increase in pay results in losing all of the child care subsidy. The raise in salary isn’t enough to cover the difference in tuition cost. Lincoln Littles funding may be used to ensure these children continue to receive high quality early childhood education.

Qualified providers include CEDARS, The Children’s Place, Community Action – Head Start, Educare Lincoln, Dimensions Education Programs at First-Plymouth, Fingerprints Child Development Center, Kids First Inc., KinderCare Learning Center, St. Mark’s Preschool/KIDZONE, Westminster Preschool, and World of Knowledge Child Development Center. They all are Step 2 or higher in Nebraska’s Step Up to Quality rating scale and are currently serving at least one child from a low-income family. Additional providers may receive grants from the fund as soon as they meet the qualifications.

“Capacity is the biggest issue,” said Michelle Suarez, Prosper Lincoln developer for Early Childhood. “We hope Lincoln Littles encourages more quality providers to open spaces for low-income families.”