Parents frustrated by state childcare payment switch

Some people getting state help paying for childcare are waiting hours in lines or on the phone as the state switches to a new payment system.

Instead of paying daycares directly after they provide services, the state is having parents get an EBT card to pay up front.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families said they've rolled out this program in the rest of the state without a problem, but several hundred Milwaukee families have had issues joining the new system.

Many flocked to the Coggs building at 12th and Vliet trying to figure out their MyWIChildCare payments Wednesday.

"They want to make us independent, but they still make it harder for us because now we have to sit here and wait all day just to get a couple hours of daycare for work," said Ayreus Portis, a frustrated parent.

Portis said she didn't know she had to change to the EBT card until her daycare told her. Wednesday she joined a long line of parents waiting to make the switch.

"The line is literally around the corner, about a four-hour wait. And then when I called over the phone, the wait time is 900 minutes," explained Ashley Harris, another frustrated parent.

That's 15 hours Harris would have to sit on the phone. But, DCF said parents could have prepared.

"We started the communication on this almost two years ago," said Joe Scialfa, DCF Director of Communications, on the phone.

Scialfa said the department did outreach through daycare providers, community organizations, Milwaukee Public Schools, a bus campaign, open houses, and letters mailed directly to homes.

"What we're talking about now is a few hundred people who either ignored the letters and the communications or threw away their cards," he said.

He said the state successfully got almost 20,000 people on the new system, but those who didn't make the switch early are frustrated.

"I haven't missed work yet, but I have to work tonight, so if I don't get out of here, I won't be able to go to work," Portis said.

The state brought in eight employees to help with the transition process, who Scialfa said will stay in Milwaukee until the transition is complete. He said parents can use the EBT card to reimburse their day cares as they work through the switch.

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