When Amanda, 24, of Eugene heard about the expansion of the Employment Related Day Care program, a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders.
Amanda had been working as a certified nurse assistant and wanted to get a degree in nursing to better support her family. But with two children, full-time child care was going to cost her $3,600 a month. And, if she worked and went to school, she’d hardly be able to afford child care. Plus, she’d never have time to be with her two young children and have the time needed for school work. (Amanda asked that only her first name be used.)
“Being able to pay for child care was the big barrier in trying to work and go to school. But I couldn’t work and go to school. I had to quit one of them,” she said.
But on Jan. 1, the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program expanded to help people like Amanda. The primary changes to the program mean that students—in high school, a GED program (General Education Degree) or college—no longer need to work to qualify for child care assistance. Plus, all students will receive additional child care hours each week for study time. And many families will qualify for more child care hours due to a change in the way part-time and full-time coverage is calculated.
“The cost of child care should not be a barrier for people to get the education they need to better their lives and the lives of their families. The expansion of ERDC is one way we can help our families and our communities,” said Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Self-Sufficiency Interim Director Claire Seguin.
The ERDC program, currently administered by ODHS, will move to the new Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) when the agency officially launches on July 1, 2023. ERDC eligibility determinations will remain with ODHS staff, and benefits will stay in the ONE system. The creation of DELC allows Oregon to expand and strengthen early learning systems to better serve children, families, and child care providers in diverse settings.
“This is a critical step to ensuring that families have access to quality, affordable child care across the state,” said Alyssa Chatterjee, current Early Learning System director and director of the future Department of Early Learning and Care. “Continuing education is a full-time job, and we are thrilled to have policies that reflect that reality for families.”
Because of this expansion, Amanda enrolled in Dare to Care in Eugene to earn a nursing degree.
“It seemed like there was always a barrier for me to become something better. But now I can finally go back to school and do something I’ve wanted to. I applied to ERDC for child care. It was a fast and easy process. I was approved the next day. I just feel like single mothers shouldn’t have to get punished for going to school. It’s already hard to do everything by myself. But now, I can give my kids a better future,” she said.
Sandra Leach, 38, of Grants Pass is an Air Force veteran with two children: Jason, 17 and Jack, 6. Leach worked as a bartender, caregiver and office worker after leaving the military in 2005. A career counselor had suggested a career change, so she started at Rogue Community College to become an elementary school teacher. She had used the ERDC program when she was working, but when she decided to go to school full time, she quit her job so she could spend more time with her children. No longer able to qualify for ERDC, she struggled to pay for after-school child care for her youngest son.
Now, she is benefitting from the ERDC expansion.
“I was so excited and relieved to know about this change because of how difficult it has been for me. I had been so concerned about when my son was getting picked up from school. I was getting very little sleep with my son having an internal alarm clock at 5:30 a.m. and with me staying up studying and getting to bed at midnight. It’s a relief not having to pay so much out of pocket for day care,” Leach said.
That relief has made a difference in her grades as well. Leach went from a 1.8 to a 3.4 grade-point average. She hopes to be on the dean’s list next term. After her associate’s degree, she plans on getting her bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University and then a master’s degree.
“Teaching can open up the possibility of not being dependent on a family member or anyone to help me out,” Leach said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the support of ERDC.”
About the Oregon Department of Human Services
The mission of the Oregon Department of Human Services is to help Oregonians in their own communities achieve wellbeing and independence through opportunities that protect, empower, respect choice and preserve dignity.
About the Early Learning Division
The Early Learning Division is currently a division within the Oregon Department of Education that is responsible for oversight of a statewide early learning and child care system. It will become the Department of Early Learning and Care on July 1, overseeing child care licensing, early learning programming, and the Employment Related Day Care program.