KU launches child care assistance fund for employees, graduate student workers to assist with extra pandemic costs

photo by: Associated Press

A bus passes in front of Strong Hall, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The University of Kansas will use federal funds from the CARES Act stimulus package — allocated by Gov. Laura Kelly’s SPARK Taskforce — to establish a child care assistance fund for employees facing unexpected costs due to their children’s school being moved again to online or hybrid learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exactly how much funding will be available wasn’t entirely clear Thursday, but any current staff or faculty member at KU — including graduate research assistants, graduate assistants or residential graduate assistants — at the Lawrence or Edwards campus is eligible to apply if they meet certain criteria.

Mike Rounds, KU’s vice provost of operations, told employees in a message Wednesday that the assistance will qualify as untaxed income that does not have to be repaid. To be eligible, workers must have increased expenses due to providing remote education — which includes child care expenses — and also have proven guardianship of a child or children between kindergarten and 8th grade. Eligibility also applies to those who are the guardian of a child in high school with a disability that requires supervision and care, Rounds said.

Student hourly workers, as well as those holding affiliate and volunteer positions are not eligible to receive funding from the program.

“Financial assistance provided through the fund is to help defray some of the additional expenses families may have incurred during the fall 2020 semester,” he said. “The funding will likely only cover a portion of those expenses.”

All applications will have an initial review through KU’s Human Resources Management, and any applications requiring further review will be submitted to a separate review committee, according to a guidance document posted to the fund’s website. The review committee is comprised of six members, and is chaired by Melissa Smith, KU’s director of strategic initiatives.

Funds will be distributed equally to approved applicants, and are limited to one payment per household. Rounds said that KU expects that the final disbursement amount could be between $100 and $500. According to the guidance document, the review committee will meet from Oct. 5 to 8 and review all applications, and the university’s financial services department will process payments from Oct. 9 to 14, with the payments scheduled for disbursement the following week.

An FAQ section on the fund’s website says that employees who have used federal sick leave due to COVID-19 — whether they had the virus themselves or had to care for someone who did — remain eligible to receive a stipend.

The section also states that the financial needs of applicants won’t be taken into consideration in order to afford each approved family the same amount of money.

Anyone who is eligible should apply for the program by Oct. 4, and applications received after that date won’t be accepted, the FAQ section says.

After the funds are disbursed, there will be an auditing process to confirm the legitimacy of funding allocations, the section says.

“KU puts trust in their employees and assumes accountability in our employees,” it says. “Data will be reviewed by school and the fund itself will have a document with all payments and accounting of the expenditures.”

Contact Conner Mitchell

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