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.