Legislative Update - January 2019

We want to wish all of you a Happy New Year! As we start new season there is quite a bit of things going on here in Washington State and in DC, so we thought it would be best to keep you informed as things happen.

 

Federal Budget: Shutdown Doesn’t Directly Impact Head Start

As you know there is a partial government shutdown.  It’s not directly impact Head Start funding. The Head Start program is funded out of Labor HHS appropriations and was signed into law. In fact, Head Start received a $200 million increase—funds that will be used for staff increases and to provide more opportunities for pregnant moms, babies, and toddlers through the Early Head Start program. But if the shutdown continues low income families that rely on either Food Stamp and or WIC or need section 8 housing vouchers could be impacted. 

 

Governor’s Budget Out: A Mixed Bag for Early Learning

The Governor released his budget in mid-December and it was best described as a mixed bag. It included a lot of great investments—expanding ECEAP to 2400 more children, launching the 1st Baby ECEAP program modeled after Early Head Start, and a major new push around home visiting programs. On the flip side the budget provided a very small cost per child increase for ECEAP providers (6% total over two years) which we think is not nearly enough to make sure we have the staff to support our most at risk children and families. The budget also left the working connections child care program in need. While the Governor would utilize recently received federal funds to support tiered reimbursement he doesn’t add any new state funds to a program that is already in crisis. Finally, the Governor proposes to increase ECEAP eligibility to 200% but more details on how they do this and what families will receive has not yet been determined.

 

WSA’s Advocacy Goals for 2019: Legislative Session Starts January 14th

We are working closely with the Early Learning Action Alliance to get behind a consensus agenda for early learning in 2019. Our Association does have some very specific policy and budget objectives for the upcoming session starting on January 14th.

ECEAP Expansion. We believe that all the children that need ECEAP’s high impact services before kindergarten should receive it. As such we are pursuing an expansion of 3600 new slots.

 

ECEAP Cost Per Child. We have heard from all of you that programs cannot continue to attract and retain teachers and staff with what we are currently paying. Nor do we have the funds to provide the additional supports in and outside of the classrooms to families. As such we are seeking a 17% increase in the cost per child in line with what was proposed by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

 

ECEAP Eligibility. Right now, there are homeless children, children with considerable risk factors, single moms working at the minimum wage, and children experiencing extreme hardship and trauma that we are blocking from enrolling into ECEAP. Why? Because the eligibility for ECEAP is so low (110% of the poverty level) that there is a huge segment of high needs children that do not qualify because their family income is slightly higher than the cut off. This year we are proposing a modest reform to the eligibility system by making homeless and tribal children categorically eligible for the program and we propose to pin the eligibility for ECEAP directly to the free school lunch program which is 130%. We will also seek to gradually expand eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level so that it better aligns with the working connections child care program.

 

Baby ECEAP. The governor has proposed a brand new Baby ECEAP pilot program, modeled after the very successful Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program.  Despite the impact and research about the importance of quality birth-3 services, there has thus far been very little state investment beyond home visiting.  This is a great opportunity to start filling a huge gap in our early learning landscape for children and families.

 

Student Parents. We think we should remove as many barriers as possible for student parents to go back to college. Unfortunately, we continue to insist that full time college student with children work an additional 20 hours–essentially ensuring that parents won’t finish their degrees. This year we intend to fix this by working with our legislative champions to help student parents access child care without having to work on top of school and to also obtain an AA degree of their choice.

 

Child Care Subsidy Rates. We are truly getting to the point where you can get a better paying job at Wendy’s or a car wash than help low income children get ready for kindergarten. This needs to change. So, this year we are supporting efforts to invest new state funds into the working connections child care program so that the people working in child care can afford to take care of their own children and pay their bills.

 

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