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Some undocumented parents are now eligible for help with childcare from Utah

Undocumented parents with U.S.-born or green card-holding children are no longer required to show proof of legal status to get help with childcare.
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Undocumented parents with U.S.-born or green card-holding children are no longer required to show proof of legal status to get help with childcare.

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Families of mixed-immigration status are now eligible to apply for the Utah Department of Workforce Services child care subsidy program.

The change occurred at the beginning of April. Undocumented parents with U.S.-born or green card-holding children are no longer required to show proof of work authorization or a social security number to apply for help with the cost of childcare.

Rebecca Banner, director of childcare at the department, said it’s been in the works for more than a year. She said this change occurred as they received input from organizations like Comunidades Unidas, a Utah non-profit advocating for Latinos.

“We had an opportunity [to] look at some of our administrative rules and align with federal policy,” she said. “We got a lot of feedback from the advocate community to have us relook at this. And so we had an opportunity to go through that process and update our employment definition, which then allowed us to update our policies related to verifying employment for the child care subsidy program.”

The department’s definition of employment no longer includes “wages obtained legally.”

Brianna Puga, an immigrant rights organizer for Comunidades Unidas, said it’s a small victory for the undocumented community and removes one of the many barriers they face on a day-to-day basis.

Puga said often undocumented families are paid under the table because of their legal status and are not able to produce pay stubs.

“A mother told me, ‘I was so worried about where I would leave my child [and with] the support coming forward, I'm able to apply for more options and resources now. I have a better feeling, and I have more peace of mind about who I'm leaving my child with.’” Puga said.

She said despite the good news, there has been hesitation from the community to apply for the program due to fear about how it might impact them.

Banner said the Utah Department of Workforce Services does not collect information that could be used against immigrants, such as a social security number or other information regarding legal status. She also said using child care benefits does not mean a person is considered dependent on the government.

“We want people to know that using child care benefits is not considered in the public charge determinations and using child care benefits will not affect immigration status or the immigration status of the family,” Banner said.

To qualify for this program, parents have to meet certain income requirements and work a set number of hours.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Copyright 2022 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Ivana Martinez