Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Address

Experts in academic success generally agree that access to high-quality learning programs for preschool children greatly improves the potential for success in high school and beyond.

But there are families who struggle financially, and for them, the options are limited because of the cost of child care.

In Arkansas, low-income families can apply through the Department of Human Services for vouchers that will pay for the care of children while their parents work or attend school.

Employees in the division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education help families navigate the challenges and help them to find financial aid. The money for assistance programs often has been hard to come by, which means that some families must wait for help.

By spring of this year, Arkansas’s list of those waiting for vouchers that would pay for child care had grown to 1,400 families with more than 2,000 children. Some of those families had been waiting for more than a year.

I am happy to report that with a block grant of $26 million from the federal Child Care Development Fund, we have eliminated the waiting list, and we even have money left over.

I announced in May that we would receive the money after President Trump signed off on the grant, which increased the Child Care Development Block Grant by $5.8 billion. The Department of Human Services immediately began contacting families on the list.

There were 2,056 children on the list, and 1,683 of those are receiving help. The parents of the other 373 declined assistance or had moved.

As of today, the number of children on the list is zero. We have enough money remaining to assist others.

The additional money from the block grant increased the number of children we can serve from about 5,300 children to more than 9,000 infants, toddlers, and children who are in pre-kindergarten or in after-school and summer break programs.

This is a big moment for the families of Arkansas because it gives their children a head start on life. Many of these children will join our workforce and make it stronger because of the opportunity this block grant has provided.

This makes this a big moment in Arkansas.