As a representative of the New Haven School Readiness Council, Denise Duclos sees the importance of state legislation that would assist poor families.

“We’re making sure all children have the child care they need,” she said.

Members of the School Readiness Council testified this month in support of a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly increase funding to the Department of Social Services. The additional funding would maintain open enrollment in a program that helps parents pay for day care.

Substitute Bill No. 5263 would continue to allow new families to enter the Care4Kids program by shifting $5.3 million from the Connecticut General Fund to the DSS. The bill would also appropriate $3 million toward increasing wages for teachers in programs funded by the DSS for a cost-of-living adjustment.

Duclos described Care4Kids, which was known as the Child Care Certificate Program until January, as a “state program to help the working poor pay for child care.”

She said the group’s actions were part of continuing efforts by the council, which was established in 1997, and other interest groups in the state to endorse the bill.

“We need this child-care assistance program to be open to new families,” Duclos said.

Duclos said any municipality receiving these child-care assistance funds must have such a council according to law. She said the mayor of each city appoints members of the council, but added that representatives of groups like the library system, health services and child-care provides must be members.

David Dearborn, a DSS spokesman, said the General Assembly adopted the budget in June 2001. The budget mandates that the program not accept new cases starting June 30 of this year. He said midterm budget deliberations for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July, are not expected to change this.

Dearborn added that families currently enrolled in the Care4Kids program will continue to receive assistance as long as they qualify. Also, families receiving temporary family assistance should still have access to new subsidies, he said.

But Duclos emphasized the importance of keeping the program open to new families.

“Without that money, there’s little support for child care,” Duclos said.

According to Dearborn’s budget estimates, subsidy payments for child care in the current fiscal year will reach $108.1 million. He gave the forecast for the next fiscal year as $112.8 million.