Tag Archive: funding

  1. Pre-COVID Child Care Policies Don’t Fit New Landscape

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    On July 1, the state’s policies guiding child care assistance immediately reverted back to pre-COVID practices. But nothing about the context of July 1, 2020 is anything like January 1, 2020. We can’t apply pre-COVID policies in a landscape that has fundamentally changed. Instead, we need to make immediate shifts to make policies work for families and the child care industry. We need to drill down into the data to better understand current practice and where we can make changes. And we will need to provide the resources to support a new landscape. 

    Ways that the Child Care Landscape Has Changed 

    Temporary Closure of Providers Beginning to Look More Like Permanent Closure  

    After more than four months of closure, many child care programs may not open again. Child Care Aware of Virginia reported that more than 1200 child care programs that would normally be open this time of year are closed. The Center for American Progress estimates that Virginia could lose up to 45 percent of child care capacity due to the pandemic. We don’t know what  the child care landscape in Virginia looks like with a large reduction of available slots and staff gone. The question remains – how do state resources help programs re-open? 

    Family Preferences Create Uncertainty and Shifts to Smaller Programs 

    Some families that would have normally sent their children to preschool or child care this year will choose to keep them home to avoid exposure to the virus. Some would prefer their children to be in smaller settings such as home-based care. With family preferences changing, how do private providers and the industry respond to adjust to new models?  

    More School-Age Children Need Care 

    With the closure of schools in March, the child care needs of school-age children became a pressing need. With summer camps closed, there continues to be a pressing need for child care. With the possibility of  schools reopening on a rotating schedule, or a few days a week, the needs of school-age children will be even more prominent. Most licensed or regulated child care settings could serve children up to age 13 but they are not staffed to do so, nor have the space to do so. Likewise, the state subsidy payments for school-age children assume costs when children would not be attending for full days or for short periods only.  

    Historical Spending Trends for Local Allocations Do Not Reflect Current Reality 

    The allocation of our state and federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds to localities has been based on a formula of historical spending not of estimates of need. These allocations drive how many new families a local DSS site can approve for access assistance and how many providers in a particular community might receive. To better maximize our state subsidy funding, Virginia should revisit these allocations or provide significant additional funding on top of the base allocation to localities.  

    Child Care Assistance Eligibility and Payment Practices Impacting Participation 

    Virginia sets its own parameters for the eligibility of our child care assistance funds. On July 1, 2020, these policies also reverted to a pre-COVID context. For example, families are required to pay co-pays to providers. Families are now more limited in the number of absences that a provider can be paid for even if their child gets sick or other family members get sick. 

    Since July 1, families can now lose their eligibility for child care assistance if they are unemployed and likely even furloughed without a rehire date. Additionally, many families may be approved for subsidy but their child care program is closed or they are not working. Families approved but not actively in child care have been factored into the payment allocations and authorized enrollment numbers. This practice  impacts the ability of local DSS programs to enroll new families off the waitlist and spend down their allocations.  

    Another factor that will hamper the ability to provide care to school-age children is that payment rates during the school year are calculated for before and after school, not the full day. If students are expected to be with child care providers for a full day while schools are closed, VDSS will need to revise these payment practices to ensure maximum payment. While reimbursement rates vary by locality, a licensed center in Richmond City for example would only receive $30 per day for a school age child from the child care subsidy assistance program if the student attended full day.  

    What Can the VA Department of Social Services Do to Address the Changing Landscape? 

    To support the child care industry, it will be critically important to advocate for additional federal resources. To advocate for additional resources, we must also know how Virginia is using existing resources to meet needs. We encourage the state to provide more information on how $70 million in CARES Act funds have been used and if there are any unspent surpluses in the CCDF or TANF federal funds that could be used for child care needs. 

    VDSS must also consider their enrollment and participation date from the last four months to predict future trends. Enrollment data must be scrutinized for when cases are suspended for the parent’s work status or an available vendor. Processes can be reconsidered to create new conditions for when a family is in suspended status. 

    Additionally, payment practices to child care providers need to be examined and improved. A notable policy of the CARES Act grants to open providers was to provide funds to all types of providers, not those only approved to participate in the child care subsidy program. This is an important step to support a fragile industry. However, VDSS has reported that the average CARES Act grant for a three-month period was $11,000. The maximum amount a family child care provider with enrollment capped at 12 children could receive was $1,800 for these three months. These payments are helpful but fall far short of meeting the need. And they do not adequately reflect the contributions of the workforce and an industry who have accepted tremendous risks to keep children safe and to keep the rest of the workforce at work.  

    While the initial payments do fall short, they also provide useful lessons learned. In the practice of providing a grant payment to providers the state helped to stabilize the industry and provide a guarantee of income. Through these methods, providers could keep doors open when family choices and needs fluctuate. Using grants or contracts also provides opportunities for the state to provide course corrections in a new landscape and to seek more equitable distributions of funds. In the future, VDSS should look to grants or contracts to target geographical areas experiencing needs by funding providers for a region. Grants or contracts could also be structured to meet specific criteria such as family child care providers in communities of color or those agreeing to pay higher wages to staff.  And grants or contracts can be structured to fund actual costs—salaries, cleaning supplies, hazard pay—and not the variability of funding by child.  

    What Can State Policymakers Do to Address the Changing Landscape? 

    There is no question more money will be needed to support families and the child care industry. State policymakers can start now to estimate what will be needed. Asking for transparency in how existing child care funds will be used and any available resources can provide insight in the changing landscape of how federal assistance can be used. Additionally, as state policy makers have approved the transition of CCDBG dollars to the Virginia Department of Education beginning in 2021, now is a good time to begin asking how those dollars can be aligned to educational resources to meet the needs of students returning to school, particularly in light of staggered schedules. The answer is both education and social services will fall short of the level of necessary funding, so how can any new funds allocated to the purposes of child care fall under the purview of VDOE to align with educational needs and future needs of the system?  

    We will need additional funds to meet the child care need going forward. Virginia’s Congressional delegation has signaled strong support for an additional $50 billion in federal funding for child care. The timing or guarantee is far from certain. In the meantime, lawmakers must call for additional funds for child care needs in the Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly to meet the needs of the changing landscape.  

  2. Details of the Proposed House and Senate Budget Deal, Including Medicaid Expansion

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    The House Appropriations Committee shared the details of the proposed House and Senate FY19 & FY20 budget deal on May 21, 2018, before the Senate was scheduled to vote. However, on May 22, the Senate postponed its expected vote on the budget and moved to convene the Senate Finance Committee on May 29 and vote as a full Senate after that meeting. While this extends the vote for one more week, it is helpful for children’s advocates to know what was included in the budget proposal and to signal support to your state delegate and senator.

    Medicaid Expansion

    Similar to the House proposal at the end of session, the proposed budget deal includes the two-step process to cover the uninsured by seeking a state plan amendment to begin to draw down federal dollars, while simultaneously seeking a waiver from the federal government to expand Medicaid with additional eligibility requirements. This version of the budget deal includes the hospital provider assessment and invests in reimbursement increases for hospitals and improvements to the behavioral health system. Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch provides a comprehensive look at what is included in the budget here.

    Mental Health

    The proposed budget deal includes significant investments in mental health, including these Voices’ priorities:

    • Rolling out a statewide system of alternative transportation for adults and children under a temporary detention order at $2.5 million in FY19 and $4.5 million in FY20.
    • Implementation of the STEP-VA plan to ensure a more comprehensive and consistent array of behavioral health services at each of the 40 community services boards (CSBs), including: finish implementing same-day access to services at all 40 CSBs, implement primary care health screenings at all 40 CSBs, and begin adding capacity for outpatient treatment ($15 million) and detox services ($2 million) in FY20 at some CSBs.

    State Policy Approaches for Childhood Trauma

    We are encouraged by policymakers’ interest in creating trauma-informed systems. The budget proposal includes these priorities from Voices’ policy agenda:

    Improvements to the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)

    The proposed budget includes a total of $11.1 million over the biennium to invest in VPI.

    • An increase of $2.3 million each year to increase the VPI per pupil rate by $201 per student
    • Funding to school divisions to help provisionally licensed teachers in VPI programs obtain their license ($2.3 million each year)
    • Additional resources for VDOE to develop a plan for quality improvement in VPI including classroom observations and student assessments
    • Additional funds to conduct classroom observations in all VPI classrooms by the end of the 2019-20 school year
    • An additional $1 million over the biennium to work with UVA CASTL to provide professional development for VPI teacher
    • Clarification that the VPI local match requirement can be met with private funds
    • Clarification of language about reallocating VPI slots to communities that use their entire allocation

    Early Childhood System Improvements

    Beyond VPI, the signature public preschool program, the proposed budget takes some steps to improve Virginia’s other early childhood systems.

    • Invests $850,000 of TANF funds over two years to strengthen Early Impact Virginia as the home visiting umbrella organization
    • Expands the scope of the Joint Subcommittee on the Virginia Preschool Initiative to include exploring Virginia Quality improvement system, Head Start and other recommendations of the JLARC report on early childhood
    • Includes a new requirement for all school divisions to participate in the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project (VKRP) student direct assessment by the end of the 2019-20 school year. Some of the funds for expansion include training on how to use the tool to improve instructional practices. Language also directs the VKRP to be expanded as a post-assessment given at the end of the kindergarten school year.
    • Provides $1.25 million in CCDBG funds over the two years to implement a pilot project through UVA CASTL for private and faith-based child care programs
    • Asks VDOE to work with the departments of social services, health and planning and budget to create a workgroup, facilitated by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, to explore leveraging and aligning existing early childhood funding streams

    In addition, the budget proposal also includes funding to support the implementation of previously enacted legislation, including:

    • Funding of $47,000 each year for staff at the Department of Health to collect data and information on the plan of services for substance-exposed infants
    • Funding for the implementation of KinGAP, financial resources for kinship caregivers when children are not eligible for other foster care placements
    • An additional $28 million in FY19 and $43 million in FY20 of non-general funds to accept the federal increase in child care assistance funds enacted by Congress in February 2018

    Contact your delegate and senator before Tuesday 5/29 asking for support of this budget proposal. Click through for a email template you can use and edit to make your own.