STRATFORD — At one point last year, Shannon Peal nearly pulled her daughter out of Honey Bear Learning Center.

The $230 monthly payment was getting hard for this single mom of two to handle.

“It was a lot of money,” said Peal, who does secretarial work at a law firm.

With no child support, she said, she strongly considered having her daughter cared for by her mom, who was already watching Peal’s baby. She knew that would be a mistake.

Then the call came.

A new Care-4-Kids reimbursement rate that goes into effect Sunday will allow both of Peal’s daughters, who are now 4 and 1, to enroll in Honey Bear for a total of $110 a month.

“It’s so good,” Peal said. “I had no idea it was coming.”

The news helps families who rely on Care-4-Kid certificates at as many as 1,200 centers throughout the state. The $14 million in new federal child care development funds is the first boost in years.

In Southwestern Connecticut, the reimbursement rate for infant and toddler care will go from $221 to $300 a week, depending on income, and the preschool rate increase goes from $175 to $210.

At Honey Bear, families, depending on their income, will save from $194 to $406 a month, according to Catherine A. Vanicky, director of the program that serves 60 children. Of those, seven slots go to separate, state-funded Bridgeport School Readiness families, which are also receiving an additional funding.

Vanicky said the result will be nearly $19,000 a year, which she can use to give staff raises. The staff of 10 teachers currently make $14 to $15 an hour and could see up to a 6 percent hourly increase.

“It is definitely a good thing, a blessing,” said Nelly Claudio, a teacher at Honey Bear, who also has two of her children enrolled there.

In the last legislative session, Vanicky and others fought for several bills aimed at improving affordability and access to child care. The new funding, came as a result of the budget and the release of federal dollars.

As a result, working families will pay less and be eligible for larger child care subsidies.

Merrill Gay, executive director of Connecticut’s Early Childhood Alliance, called it great news for families and for providers.

“Hopefully it will encourage providers to open up new infant and toddler classrooms,” said Gay. “There is an enormous shortage.”

Even with an estimated 1,400 centers and 3,000-plus licensed homes, there is as much as a 50,000-slot shortfall in licensed slots, Gay said.

This September’s increase, Gay added, is the first significant one in 17 years. Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said the increase will have a positive impact on an economy that relies on working families who have access to affordable child care.

“For too long, child care providers have been fragile and struggling financially to keep their doors open,” Bye said.

For Peal it will mean peace of mind. Both her daughters will have steady, affordable child care. And her younger daughter can start day care sooner, avoiding the adjustment problems her older sister faced.

“I didn’t put first one into day care until she was two and it was really hard, she was so attached to me,” said Peal. “This worked out for everybody.”; twitter/lclambeck