RIght from the Start is a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island. During the COVID-19 crisis, it has become even more clear that policies and programs that help families with young children are essential for a strong economy and public health. Investments now will help our state and Rhode Island’s young children and families weather this crisis and emerge stronger on the other side.
RIght from the Start and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT have been proudly participating in Strolling Thunder Rhode Island 2021. Working together with parents, advocates, educators, and legislators, we’ve held seven Zoom advocacy events that featured REAL families sharing REAL experiences and struggles to help advocate for the RIght Start Agenda of policies and legislation designed to help Rhode Island’s young children and families weather the COVID-19 crisis and emerge stronger on the other side.
Our April 28, 2021 virtual event focused on child care and featured remarks from Wilmaris Soto-Ramos, a new mom from Pawtucket who is also the Rhode Island representative to national Strolling Thunder. Wilmaris talked about why she advocates for improved state policies and funding for programs that help families like hers and how better state policies will help her daughter and all kids get off to the right start!
Rhode Island Capitol TV also worked with us to create a special production: Child Care Makes the World Go Round which features remarks from the Governor, Lt. Governor, General Assembly leaders, child care program leaders, and parents of young children.
Throughout May we’ve been organizing individual meetings between parents of young children and key Rhode Island legislative leaders as the General Assembly prepares to make decisions on legislation and state budget priorities in June.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and remote advocacy, Strolling Thunder Rhode Island is ensuring that our legislators are hearing directly from parents in support of policies, legislation, and budget items that will help ALL children get off to the right start.
In case you missed it, watch the full version of Rhode Island Capitol TV’s “Childcare Makes the World Go Round” special produced in celebration of Rhode Island Child Care Awareness Day.
Building Rhode Island’s child care sector back better and bolder means creating a wage supplement to help child care programs retain qualified and effective early educators.
Let’s build Rhode Island’s child care sector back better and bolder by passing the Child Care Is Essential Act (H-5672 / S-378). Increase access for families, worthy wages for our childhood educators, and sustainable rates for child care and early education providers.
Rhode Island will be receiving $117 million in federal stimulus dollars dedicated to child care. RIght from the Start has shared the following recommendations with Governor McKee and the General Assembly on how to best use these funds to build our child care sector back better and bolder!
Ahead of Thursday’s House Finance hearing, the RIght from the Start Campaign is urging the passage of House Bill No. 5672, the Rhode Island Child Care Is Essential Act sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz. This comprehensive legislation would increase Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rates for providers, provide weekly infant care bonuses to programs, cap family copayments for child care at 7% of family income, and increase access for working families by expanding CCAP eligibility to families with incomes at or below 225% of the federal poverty level.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how essential child care is to Rhode Island’s working families, to young children, and to our economy,” said Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children. “Now is the time to invest in our child care system so that it can get through the ongoing pandemic and emerge on solid, sustainable footing to serve more young children and working families. That is why we are urging the General Assembly to pass the Rhode Island Child Care Is Essential Act to provide sustainable funding for our child care providers while also expanding eligibility so more working families can access quality, affordable child care.”
“With reduced enrollments and increased health, safety, sanitization, and staffing related costs, Rhode Island’s child care providers have been hit hard economically by the COVID-19 pandemic” said Leanne Barrett of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “Fortunately, a combination of federal stimulus dollars and emergency CCAP rate increases have allowed most child care programs to remain open, but these are temporary fixes for a child care system that needs sustainable long term investment. That’s precisely what the Rhode Island Child Care Is Essential Act would provide through increased CCAP rates, while also expanding eligibility to high quality, affordable child care for more children and their families.”
“Even before the pandemic, finding adequate funding to pay our early educators and provide a great learning environment for our kids, while keeping rates affordable for families was extremely difficult,” said Mary Varr, Executive Director of the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association. “Now, due to the pandemic we’ve seen decreased enrollments at the same time that our cleaning and staffing costs have increased to comply with health and safety regulations. Stimulus funding and the state’s emergency order to increase CCAP rates have helped us to remain open, but we need a sustainable source of state funding to truly stabilize our child care sector so it can serve our kids, families, and childhood educators. That’s why we strongly support the Child Care Is Essential Act and urge the General Assembly to pass this important legislation.”
“During this pandemic, too many Rhode Island families have had to reduce their work hours or leave jobs altogether because of a lack of child care options,” said Rachel Flum, Executive Director of the Economic Progress Institute. “It is critical that we invest in expanding access to quality affordable child care options for our working families, and that’s what the Child Care Is Essential Act will do by capping child care copays and expanding eligibility. This is exactly the kind of long-term investment we need to make to support our young children, working families, and Rhode Island’s economy.”
“For too long our child care sector has been underfunded, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated that reality at precisely the time working families need us the most,” said Khadija Lewis Khan, Executive Director of Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center in Providence. “The Child Care Is Essential Act recognizes that we are essential to kids, families, and our economy by increasing state funding for programs while also increasing eligibility. This is a smart and needed investment in the infrastructure of quality, affordable child care and early learning in Rhode Island.”
Key Elements of the Child Care Is Essential Act:
Permanently Increases CCAP Rates. Meet or exceed the federal equal access standard for all age groups and settings (75th percentile of the 2018 Market Rate Survey) with 5 quality tiers connected to the program’s BrightStars quality rating to promote access to quality care. Rates for 1-star programs would meet or exceed the federal equal access standard and 5-star programs will meet or exceed the 90th percentile of the 2018 Market Rate Survey.
Provides Weekly Infant Care Bonuses. Pay a $20 weekly bonus payment to programs for each infant under 18 months in care on top of the rate to help with increased staffing needs and individualized care.
Caps Family Copayments at 7% of Family Income. The federal affordability standard is 7% of family income. Some families using CCAP subsidy are charged copayments of 10% or 14% of family income.
Allows More Low-Income Working Families to Qualify for a CCAP Certificate. In 2007, all working families with incomes over 180% FPL ($39,528*) were cut from the program. It is important to restore eligibility to families with incomes at or below 225% FPL ($49,410*) and allow families to retain their subsidy up to 300% FPL ($65,880*). *family of 3 in 2021
State Senator Sandra Cano is the sponsor of Senate Bill No. 378, the Rhode Island Child Care Is Essential Act companion in the Senate.
On March 10th, RIght from the Start was joined by leading legislators, advocates, and a new mom to discuss the importance of improving Rhode Island’s Paid Family Leave program so ALL parents can have adequate income to remain at home with newborns, adoptive, and foster children for at least 12 weeks. Watch the recording of the full discussion below and download our presentation materials here.
The RIght from the Start campaign is proud to have the support of so many organizations working to support families and their children from prenatal to Pre-K!
2021 Campaign Champions
American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter
Books Are Wings
The Children’s Workshop
Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP)
Crayons Early Care & Education Center
Dr. Day Care
Family Service of Rhode Island
Federal Hill House
J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center
Nowell Leadership Academy
Over the Rainbow Learning Center
Parent Support Network of Rhode Island
Parents Leading for Educational Equity
Peace of Mind Nannies
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent Child Abuse Rhode Island
Reach Out And Read Rhode Island
Ready to Learn Providence
Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families
RI NOW (Rhode Island – National Organization for Women)
Turning The Corner
West Bay Community Action
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
YMCA of Pawtucket
Campaign Steering Committee
Economic Progress Institute
Latino Policy Institute
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
On February 24th, RIght from the Start was joined by leading legislators and advocates to discuss our 2021 child care, Head Start, and RI Pre-K legislative and budget priorities. You can watch the full Zoom below and view our Child Care, Head Start, and RI Pre-K in the State Budget slide presentation here.
Watch our newest RIght from the Start video on the need to improve Rhode Island’s paid family leave policy so all parents, and especially lower-wage earning parents, can have adequate income to remain at home and bond with newborns, adoptive, and foster children for at least 12 weeks.