According to the Colorado Children’s Campaign, affordable child care should support, not make it more difficult, for working parents’ efforts to keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers, education and financial advancement. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in many areas of Colorado denies many working families access to this important resource. Child care in Colorado ranks among the most expensive across states in our country. On average, child care costs families $12,400 per year, as reported by Qualistar Colorado.
One of the best tools to help families afford child care is the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). This legislative session, Colorado Senators Jeanne Nicholson, Linda Newell, and John Kefalas and Representative Crisanta Duran introduced a bill (HB14-1317) to help address some of the red tape and administrative inconsistencies in CCCAP, in order to make it more workable for many parents and child care providers.
How would HB14-1317 help families?
The bill's overarching intent is to increase access to affordable child care for working families in our state. If passed, it will increase the affordability of child care, ease burdens for working parents and cut red tape for child care providers, many of which are small businesses.
It proposes to reduce co-payment requirements for the most impoverished families who are eligible for CCCAP assistance, in part because only three states in our country have a higher co-payment rate for families than Colorado does. It would allow job seekers and those enrolled in post-secondary education or workforce training programs to be eligible for CCCAP. It would also set up wait lists in each county so families will know when they may be eligible for a child care slot and to permit the state to assess the unmet need.
Further, the bill seeks to structure income eligibility requirements so that working families can afford child care despite minor increases in wages, thus easing the “Cliff Effect” in Colorado that often discourages families from trying to transition from public assistance to economic self-sufficiency.
CBS4.com explains in reporting on the bill on March 19, 2014 in its segment titled, “Bill Would Further Help Low Income Parents with Child Care,"
“The proposed bill would set up a system where low income parents and high quality programs get the most help.
For middle class families child care is often an enormous expense. For families in poverty, it’s out of reach, which is why years ago the government set up the Child Care Assistance Program as an incentive to keep parents in the workforce.”
How would HB14-1317 help providers of child care?
For the child care providers, the bill would set provider reimbursement rates and holiday and absence policies in a way to encourage greater participation in CCCAP by child care providers, while promoting parental choice, and ensure that these small businesses do not operate at a loss by offering quality early childhood learning to CCCAP-subsidized families.
Among the bill supporters is a broad collaborative of well-known community organizations and associations including, but not limited to, 9to5 Colorado, Project WISE, the Bell Policy Center, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Early Childhood Council of Larimer County, and Qualistar Colorado.
Why is CCCAP an effective anti-poverty measure?
As reported in the Denver Business Journal by Heather Draper in her June 2013 article titled, “Colorado women lag in wages, economic security,”
“In 2011, 30 percent of women 18 and older in Colorado had family incomes below or near the federal poverty line, and families headed by single mothers had the lowest median annual income of all family types at $26,705.
‘Simply being employed doesn’t mean you’re financially secure,” Louise Atkinson, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, said. ‘So if you get a 50-cent-an-hour raise, but lose $1,500 in monthly child care subsidies, you can’t make ends meet.’”
In fact, most industrialized countries provide between three months and one year of full-time paid leave. Yet, whereas New Zealand has 14 weeks of parental leave, the United Kingdom has 13 weeks, and Switzerland has 11 weeks of full-time paid leave, the U.S. mandates no paid parental leave whatsoever. This means that often Colorado parents, with employers that do not offer paid parental leave, must find child care for even newborns, in order to keep their jobs and maintain their economic stability.
A summary recap on where things stand with HB1317 today
HB1317 passed House Appropriations on April 10 with the full allocation ($9.9 million) and moved directly to the floor for a Second Reading and passed initial approval with one amendment. The amendment did the following:
It revised the provider reimbursement rate setting and opt out procedure to address county concerns. The amendment included the requirement that reimbursement rates as set by the state or by counties include a system of tiered reimbursement as defined in parameters set by the State Board. In addition, the new policy will require counties to work with local child care providers and their local early childhood councils to inform their provider reimbursement rates if they decide to opt out of the state-set rates. Finally, the amendment requires an analysis of state and county-set reimbursement rates to determine the extent to which they provide equal access for CCCAP-subsidized families compared to non-subsidized families as well as an examination of why licensed facilities choose to limit or deny access to CCCAP-subsidized families.
It clarified the one to twelve months of paystubs requirement. The amendment aligned expectations for determining a parent’s copayment and eligibility for CCCAP with other public benefit programs while also addressing a county request to have flexibility on a case-by-case basis in verifying income.
It clarified the 60 day job search is for 12 months if a parent loses their job while on CCCAP and that workforce training and post-secondary education are eligible activities if an applicant is also employed. The amendment clarified that a family who is receiving CCCAP, but loses a job, can still receive assistance for 60 days within a 12-month period. The previous bill draft inadvertently failed to specify that this was only within a 12-month period
The amendment also addressed implementation timeline issues. Counties have expressed some concern that some of the provisions may need to be implemented on a phased-in timeline in order for technology and business practices to catch up with policy changes. The amendment would allow the technological updates to occur prior to requiring the specific provision to be implemented and ensure that reporting on outcomes occurs after the technological changes have been made.
As a result of these changes, HB1317 now has the full support of Colorado Counties, Inc., in addition to the supporting nonprofit organizations listed above.
The bill will be heard early this week for a final reading on the House floor and then sent to the Colorado Senate for consideration.
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