Voices’ Blog

Bill Explainer: Expanding Access to Child Care Assistance HB2206 (Filler-Corn)

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

The Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn has introduced HB2206 to create a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance to afford child care. This legislation passed the Senate 37-0 and passed the House 92-7. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk to sign for immediate enactment. Enrollment in the state’s child care assistance program has declined 27%, compared to last year, with fewer families seeking financial assistance when child care programs closed, schools closed and COVID-19 forced smaller classroom sizes. At the same time, an alarming number of women are losing jobs or leaving the workforce. Recent estimates show employment losses during COVID-19 particularly impacting women, with a more significant impact on women of color.

This bill would make the following changes and expansions to eligibility for the child care assistance program:

Short-term eligibility window in response to COVID-19 recovery: This bill would create a new eligibility category during a short window of time for families seeking financial assistance to afford child care while they are employed or looking for a job. The new eligibility window would open once a bill is signed and systems could go into place, likely no sooner than March 1, 2021, and would remain in effect through July 31, 2021.

Higher income eligibility limits: The new income eligibility levels would be set at 85% of the state median income as laid out in the current program guidance, approximately $60,000 per year for a two person household, $74,000 for a three person household and $89,000 for a four person household. This is a significant expansion of the income eligibility levels which are currently set at 250% of poverty in Northern Virginia (or approximately $43,000 for a two person household) and 185% of poverty or less for the rest of the state (<$32,000 for two person household). To be eligible at the higher income level the family would need to have a target child below age five or not in kindergarten, but older children in the household would also be eligible for assistance.

Eligible while looking for work: Relaxed work requirements would enable families to seek child care assistance while they are looking for employment instead of after they have secured employment. Families would keep eligibility for 12 months or until their income exceeds 85% of the state medium income.

Eliminated requirement to comply with child support enforcement: On February 16, Senator Hanger added an amendment that would bring the timeline to eliminate compliance with the child support enforcement system to the timeline that this bill would go into effect. The original bill would have created a short time frame that the child support enforcement compliance would still be in effect. Families applying for child care assistance after this bill goes into effect would not have to ensure the noncustodial parent is paying their child support through the formal child support enforcement agency.

Providers can be reimbursed at current payment rates: The child care provider selected by the parent would receive reimbursement for caring for the eligible child at the maximum reimbursable payment rates set under the current child care assistance program. Payment rates are based on the age of child, costs in the locality and licensure status of the provider so they can vary. As an example, a family with an infant looking for care in Henrico County would receive assistance valued at around $1,000 per month for care.

There is a cap number of children to be served on the program that shall not exceed the child target set by the state for child care assistance funds.

Eligibility will be determined by meeting income and employment or job search criteria.

Funding for the new eligibility category would come from federal stimulus funds or coronavirus relief funds dedicated to child care assistance. Virginia has received an additional $200 million for child care assistance from the December 2020 federal stimulus package.

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