RIght from the Start Final FY22 Budget & Legislative Session Update

Dear RIght from the Start supporters: 

The 2021 legislative session has concluded and the FY22 state budget is final. Thanks to your advocacy we have made some significant progress in advancing state policies and budgets to help young children, but we still have a long way to go.  

Advocacy with our Rhode Island congressional delegation is absolutely critical this summer so we can secure as much funding for kids and families as possible, particularly to improve access to high-quality, affordable child care and Pre-K/Head Start, and to ensure all families have access to paid family leave to take care of a new baby/child or seriously ill family member. Our congressional delegation is essential to negotiating the final federal policy package so that families in Rhode Island and across the US have what they need to raise happy and healthy children right from the start.  

Please take a moment today and click this link to send a message to our congressional delegation about the need for more investments in child care and preschool.

Thank you to the General Assembly, Governor, and advocates across the state for moving the RIght from the Start priorities forward this year. 

RIght from the Start

RIght Start FY22 Budget & 2021 Legislative Priorities Final Results

Child Care Assistance Program: Total funding for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is budgeted at $74.2 million in the FY22 budget which is the highest funding level since 2006. However, state general revenue funding for child care was actually cut from $9 million to $8.7 million.  

  • RI Child Care is Essential advocates won a permanent cap on family copayments to meet the federal affordability guideline of 7% of family income. This cap will help improve affordability of child care for families receiving a CCAP subsidy and will help providers who often struggle to collect copayments from families required to make copayments that were up to twice the federal affordability guideline.
  • Advocates won a statutory continuation of the current pandemic rates through December 31, 2021.
  • RI Child Care is Essential advocates won increases in the new statutory rates paid to child care providers serving low-income children. These new rates will go into effect as of January 1, 2022 and are significantly higher than the Governor’s original proposal, including tiered quality rates for school-age children ages 6 to 12 who were omitted from the original budget proposed. All of the rates are higher than the original Governor’s proposal, and in some cases, the new statutory rates are higher than the current pandemic rates. In other cases, the rates are significantly lower than the current pandemic rates. See this rate chart with details on current pandemic rates to be continued through December 31, 2021 and new rates to start January 1, 2022.
  • The FY22 final budget allocates $200,000 for a one-year pilot program so low-income college students can access the Child Care Assistance Program to help cover child care costs.

RI Pre-K and State Funded Head Start: The final FY22 budget provides level state funding, $14.9 million for RI Pre-K for four-year-olds and $1.2 million for Head Start for three- and four-year-olds. The 22 new RI Pre-K classrooms added for 2021-2022 and the 17 new RI Pre-K classrooms added in 2020-2021 are being funded with federal grants, including the PDG Birth to Five grant and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. 

Family Home Visiting: Advocates won $1.6 million in additional Medicaid funding for family home visiting, authorized prenatal visits for the First Connections program, and Medicaid funding for evidence-based family home visiting programs managed by the Department of Health (Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers). 

Medicaid and Commercial Health Insurance Coverage for Perinatal Doula Services: Advocates won Medicaid and commercial health insurance coverage for perinatal doula services. The FY22 budget estimates $400K for the coverage, but funding is not capped. A separate bill passed that requires commercial health insurance providers in Rhode Island to cover perinatal doula services beginning July 1, 2022. 

Paid Family Leave: Advocates won additional weeks for parents to care for new babies, foster, and adoptive children and for all workers to care for seriously ill family members. Legislation passed that expands Rhode Island’s paid family leave program (Temporary Caregivers Insurance) to 5 weeks beginning in January 2022 and 6 weeks beginning in January 2023, from the existing 4 weeks that was established when the program began in 2014.

Next Steps

Affordable, High-Quality Child Care: We intend to keep fighting for rate increases to meet federal standards and help programs provide quality care and increase wages of child care educators (particularly as minimum wage increases go into effect in January 2022, when many CCAP rates will be reduced from the current pandemic rate levels). We also intend to continue our fight to expand eligibility so more families have help paying for child care and we return CCAP enrollment to levels from 2003. 

Early Educator Wages: The RI Early Educator Investment Act passed the Senate and we are hopeful the House will take a vote on this bill during a potential Fall 2021 session. This bill requires the state to set goals to increase compensation of early educators. We are also working to secure funding for a statewide child care wage supplement pilot project. 

Paid Family Leave: We intend to continue fighting to increase our lowest-in-the-nation wage replacement rates for paid family leave so low-wage workers, many of whom are people of color, can afford to take paid leave when they have a new baby and to extend coverage to at least 12 weeks

Postpartum Medicaid Extension: A bill that permanently extends Medicaid coverage for moms to 12 months postpartum (instead of 60 days) passed the Senate, but did not pass the House. We intend to continue fighting for permanent postpartum Medicaid extension in Rhode Island. Currently, states are required to provide continuous coverage to Medicaid enrollees through the COVID-19 public health emergency and receive enhanced federal matching funds under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  

Revenue for Rhode Island: New, sustainable state general revenue is needed to adequately fund essential services for families with young children, including health care, child care, and early education. We will support equitable strategies to increase state revenue. 

Federal Advocacy: Members of Congress are crafting federal spending packages this summer. Early childhood programs in Rhode Island are highly dependent on federal funding. Please reach out to your elected members of Congress right now to ask them for bold investments in programs that help young children thrive. 

Take Action for Babieshttps://www.thinkbabies.org/take-action-fy22-appropriations/ 

Take Action for Child Care and Preschool: https://fyff.quorum.us/action_center/