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DENVER — With an improving economy, Colorado lawmakers had money to spend this year–and they spent a significant amount of it to make childcare more affordable for Colorado families.

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed some of those changes into law at the Capitol.

Currently, Colorado ranks as the fifth least affordable state when it comes to paying for childcare.

The biggest change is an expansion of the state’s childcare tax credit, making it available to Colorado families earning less than $25,000 a year, who’d been heretofore unable to qualify for the state rebate which had been tied to the federal childcare tax credit.

Now, low-earning parents will be able to claim an additional $500 exemption per child from the state up to $1,000.

“For working parents a key to economic security is access to affordable childcare,” Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, said. “We need to make sure that hard-working parents are able to find affordable child care. This bill will help single mothers and Colorado families that are struggling to make ends meet.”

Two other bills signed into law affect the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps at-risk families transition toward self-sufficiency.

One measure, formerly known as Senate Bill 3, creates voluntary grants for counties participating in the CCAP; another, formerly House Bill 1317, expands the number of families that qualify for it.

Specifically, H.B. 1317 creates tiered reimbursement programs that reward successful, high-quality child care centers, lowers co-payments for families with incomes below the federal poverty level and implements policies that support parents’ efforts to find and keep a job.

“Colorado has some of the highest costs of child care in country,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will give more families access to affordable child care and reward child care centers that provide high-quality care.”