2022 General Assembly Session Wrap-Up: Major Progress for Rhode Island Families With Young Children, But More Work Needed

Thanks to all of your advocacy and strong leadership from the Governor and General Assembly leaders, Rhode Island is strengthening policies and programs that help young children get off to the Right Start! Read our full 2022 Rhode Island General Assembly session wrap-up below.

Child Care is Essential:

  • Lifts the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) family income eligibility at entrance from 180% FPL ($41,454 for a family of 3) to 200% FPL ($46,060 for a family of 3).
  • Lifts family income eligibility at exit from 225% FPL ($51,817 for a family of 3) to 300% FPL ($69,090 for a family of 3) – 300% is the highest eligibility level in RI history!
  • Makes CCAP eligibility permanent for low-income college students enrolled at RI public higher education institution.
  • Maintains the 7% cap on family copayments.
  • Increases CCAP provider rates for all ages of children enrolled in licensed child care centers to range from the 50th percentile to the 80th percentile of the 2021 RI Child Care Market Rate Survey and ensures that rates for programs at the 4 and 5 star quality levels meet or exceed the federal equal access standard.
  • Allocates funds for a child care licensing information technology system.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to provide start-up grants to incentivize people to open and license new family child care homes.
  • Allocates ARPA funds for quality improvement grants to licensed child care centers and family child care homes.

Early Educator Investment:

  • Requires a state plan to prepare, recruit, and retain a highly qualified early childhood workforce, including “adequate wages for early childhood educators regardless of setting.”
  • Allocates ARPA funds for a second year of retention bonuses for educators and direct care staff at licensed child care centers and family child care homes.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to expand the RI’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood workforce development model to help more early educators earn post-secondary credentials and degrees.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to develop an early educator workforce registry.

Early Intervention and First Connections:

  • Provides a permanent 45% Medicaid rate increase for Early Intervention – the first rate increase in 20 years! This rate increase will help the 60% of EI children with Medicaid and will also trigger rate increases from commercial health insurance providers (about 40% of EI children have commercial insurance). This will help Early Intervention programs raise wages to more competitive levels so they can recruit and retain qualified staff and then enroll children off the statewide waiting list.
  • Allocates $5.5 million in ARPA funding for Early Intervention Recovery to “provide relief to early intervention providers in response to a decline in enrollment for early intervention, family home visiting, and screening programs. This program will also provide performance bonuses for providers who hit certain targets, such as recovering referral numbers and achieving reduced staff turnover.”
  • Provides a temporary Medicaid rate increase for the First Connections Home Visiting Program that will be effective July 1, 2022 to help the program raise wages to recruit and retain nurses, social workers, and community health workers. First Connections is the mandatory Child Find program for Early Intervention and helps families with newborns connect to essential services and resources. First Connections had not received a rate increase in more than 20 years.

Cover All Kids:

  • Restores Medicaid/RIte Care Coverage to all income-eligible children who are residents of RI, regardless of immigration status.

Medicaid Postpartum Extension:

  • Extends Medicaid/RIte Care Coverage from 60 days postpartum to 12 months postpartum for moms, regardless of immigration status.

Infant/Early Childhood Mental Wellness:

  • Creates a State Infant/Early Childhood Mental Wellness Task Force to develop a state plan on or before June 30, 2023, to promote the adoption of best practices for screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health challenges in Medicaid for infants and young children under the age of six.

Pre-K/State Funded Head Start:

  • Provides level state funding for RI Pre-K and state-funded Head Start for 2022-2023 to maintain existing classrooms and seats.
  • Amends the RI Pre-K Act to require state agencies to develop a plan to expand the RI Pre-K program to serve 5,000 children ages 3 and 4 within five years with expansion beginning in FY24. The plan will also include recommendations for achieving universal access to Pre-K in RI for all children ages 3 and 4.
  • Requires the Pre-K expansion plan to ensure that infant and toddler care is not at risk as Pre-K is expanded.

Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning:

  • Establishes an “Early Childhood Governance Working Group” that will be convened by the chair of the Children’s Cabinet to develop recommendations by October 1, 2023, regarding the governance of early childhood programs in the state.
  • The recommendations shall address, but need not be limited to:
  • The coordination and administration of early childhood programs and services;
  • The governance and organizational structure of early childhood programs and services, including whether, and under what circumstances, the state should consider unifying early childhood programs under one state agency;
  • The fiscal structure of proposed recommendations; and
  • The implementation of early childhood data systems, for strategic planning, program implementation and program evaluation.
  • The existing RI Early Learning Council shall serve as the advisory body to the Working Group.

Let RI Vote:

  • Improves voter access by removing barriers to vote by mail or early in-person in RI!

Paid Family Leave/Temporary Caregivers Insurance:

  • No changes to the Parental and Family Medical Leave Act or the Temporary Caregivers Insurance program were enacted.

Revenue for Rhode Island:

  • No changes were enacted to the state tax rate for the top 1% of earners in order to generate more state revenue to help kids and families.