DALLAS — Texas' low-income and essential workers will soon lose access to subsidized child care through the state after the Texas Workforce Commission voted to scale back its assistance program Tuesday.
Essential workers will have only through Wednesday to apply for subsidized child care and low-income parents will have to pay for a "portion of their costs" for their own child care beginning June 1, according to the agency.
Children that were previously enrolled in child care through state subsidies will continue to receive their three months of subsidized care.
"As Texas' economy begins to reopen, TWC will begin phasing out these programs. Essential workers in need of child care during the school year were offered assistance. And, as child care reopens, child care providers are now able to resume services for all parents in need of child care," TWC spokesperson Cisco Gamez said in a statement provided to The Dallas Morning News.
Additionally, low-income parents' portion of child care costs "may be waived, on a case by case basis, if parents continue to be unable to meet this financial obligation," according to the agency.
The three-person commission's vote comes just a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott further lifted restrictions on state businesses, including allowing all day care centers and youth camps to open immediately.
Previously, child care services were only permitted to the children of workers defined as "essential" by the state's stay-at-home order. That included health care professionals and grocery store workers.
In April, TWC disbursed $200 million to subsidize child care for those whose incomes and lives had been impacted by statewide lockdowns meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.
With child care businesses trying to operate under stringent new social distancing protocols, the commission also anticipated that the costs of child care could rise. Thousands of licensed child care operations across the state of Texas have closed in recent months.
Now that nonessential workers will be able to place their children in child care, parents will be able to pay their share of costs once again, according to TWC's prepared discussion points on the topic.
Texans on the frontline of the pandemic have had more than one month to apply for the child care subsidies put in place in April.
"TWC assumes that the most critical needs for subsidized child care for essential workers have been addressed," the discussion points said.
Child care advocates warned that TWC's decision would be damaging to both child care businesses and essential workers.
"Helping child care providers financially survive the pandemic is really important if you want parents to eventually go back to work to rebuild the economy and you want infants and toddlers to get the support they need during the critical early years of brain development," Texans Care for Children's David Feigen said in a statement.
"The decision to start pulling back financial support runs the risk of making child care unaffordable for many essential employees and forcing child care providers to consider closing their doors. State leaders need to closely monitor the viability of child care providers and be prepared to provide additional federal dollars to keep them standing."
— Tribune Content Agency, LLC.