RIght Start State Budget & Legislative Priorities Update
The House Finance Committee passed a proposed FY22 state budget on June 17th. Here is a summary of what is included, excluded, next steps, and the status of RIght Start Agenda legislation pending before the General Assembly.
Child Care Assistance Program: Total funding for the Child Care Assistance Program FY 22 budget is not clear at this point, but there are several systemic improvements in statute for reimbursement rates and a plan to cap family copayments at the federal affordability standard.The House Finance Committee proposal for FY22:
- Continues the current pandemic reimbursement rates paid to child care providers serving low-income children through December 31, 2021.
- Implements new statutory tiered rates paid to child care providers serving low-income children as of January 1, 2022 to include afterschool and summer program rates for school-age children ages 6 to 12 who were omitted from the original budget proposed by the Governor. 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 linked rate chart with details on current pandemic rates to be continued through December 31, 2021 and new rates proposed by the House Finance Committee to start January 1, 2022.
- Caps family copayments at the federal affordability limit so that no family in the Child Care Assistance Program has copayments higher than 7% of family income.
- 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 House Finance Committee agrees with the Governor’s proposal to level fund RI Pre-K for four-year-olds with $14.9 million in state funding. New RI Pre-K classrooms added in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 are being funded with federal grants, including the PDG Birth to Five grant and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.
The House Finance Committee agrees with the Governor’s proposal to provide level funding of $1.2 million for state-funded Head Start slots for three- and four-year-olds.
Family Home Visiting: The House Finance Committee agrees with the Governor’s proposal to include $1.6 million in additional Medicaid funding ($700K of which is new state General Revenue spending) to authorize prenatal visits for the First Connections program and fund evidence-based family home visiting programs managed by the Department of Health (Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers).
Medicaid Coverage for Perinatal Doula Services: The House Finance Committee agrees with the Governor’s proposal to authorize Medicaid coverage for perinatal doula services, budgeting $400K in FY22 for the new coverage.
Status of RIght Start Agenda Legislation
RI Child Care is Essential Act(H-5672 / S-378): We are hopeful that the General Assembly will amend these bills to include statutory changes connected to the FY22 budget plan for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and pass a revised bill in the House and Senate. We intend to keep fighting for additional rate increases to help programs increase wages of child care educators (particularly as minimum wage requirements go into effect) and deliver high-quality educational services. 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 2007.
RI Early Educator Investment Act (H-5158 / S-66): This bill has passed the full Senate and we are hopeful the House will pass the companion bill to require the state to set goals to increase compensation of early educators, many of whom are women of color making very low wages.
Paid Family Leave – Temporary Caregivers Insurance (H-5789 / S-436): An alternative bill has passed the senate (S-688) to extend the state’s paid family leave program from 4 weeks to 8 weeks without changing wage replacement rates On the House side, an amendment has been introduced to a similar alternate bill (H-6090) which would proposes to extend the state’s paid family leave program to 6 weeks without changing wage replacement rates. We are hopeful that the General Assembly will pass the Senate version of the bill (8 weeks) and 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.
Perinatal Doula Services (H-5929 / S-484): This bill has passed the full Senate and we are hopeful the House will pass the companion bill to require commercial health insurance coverage of perinatal doula services. As noted above, Medicaid coverage for perinatal doula services is included in the state budget. About 50% of births in Rhode Island are covered by Medicaid.
Postpartum Medicaid Extension (H-6075, S-430): This bill has passed the full Senate and we are hopeful the House will pass the companion bill that extends Medicaid coverage for moms to 12 months postpartum (instead of 60 days) to provide consistent access to critical health care for new moms.