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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Guest commentary: Motion calls for needed boost to child care funding

by Madeleine Byrd

Delaware’s Joint Finance Committee has voted to add $20.07 million to Delaware’s care program purchases in fiscal year 2023—a substantial increase in funding. He added to the governor’s proposed increase—both to increase the rates paid to child care providers by 15%—and to include a $1.1 million “door opener” to fund enrollment growth. This means, as more families enroll in the PoC, the state budget will increase to ensure that they are served. These funds will continue to be in the operating budget instead of contingent or one-time as provided earlier.

Advocates, including First State Pre-K and the Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children, worked with legislators to catalyze the biggest growth in recent decades—along with parents, teachers, and voters who are in the midst of a growing crisis in the state. Calling to remove. The needs of families, employers and the long-term state.

What would this mean?

Providers will be paid for children who are eligible for subsidized child care at 85% of the 75th percentile of the 2021 Market Rate Study beginning July 1, 2022 (this is an increase from 70% of the 75th percentile). According to a recent cost-estimation report by the Division of Social Services, the state pays only one percent of the actual cost to meet state needs—and much less than the actual cost of care.

These increases will mean continuing care of 12,000 families currently enrolled in the PoC.

For providers that accept PoCs, this funding will allow them to keep up with rising minimum wages, and – we hope – provide more slots for families, especially those with infants. The investment will help providers better pay employees, reduce turnover, and provide stability for children and families.

This could enable more providers to accept POC families.

what happens next?

The Joint Finance Committee reviewed and voted on funding priorities for the Fiscal 2023 operating budget in late May. The legislative budget staff will write the final budget bill, which must be approved by the entire General Assembly by June 30.

Advocates have observed that the governor and the General Assembly have continued to prioritize elementary education this year—including actions to provide workers with lump-sum bonuses and bills to support the workforce—in this session.

However, Delaware’s work isn’t over yet. We know that POC rates should at least reflect federal benchmarks — an investment we think will take at least $40 million to budget this year — and, long-term, the true cost of care. Advocacy will continue for:

  • State rates increase over time.
  • Increasing eligibility for families that don’t qualify for a POC but still can’t afford child care—only this year, with inflation and minimum wage increases, many families aren’t eligible because eligibility is still in federal poverty Limited at 185% of the limit. , which is below the eligibility level for Head Start and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Equity rates across county lines as in Kent and Sussex providers are reimbursed at 40% less per child than in New Castle County.
  • Raise money to support fair wages for the workforce.

As a reminder, Delaware voters of all backgrounds increased investment for early education.

Madeleine is Bayard’s Senior Vice President Rodale and leads policy, programmatic, government affairs and communications initiatives.

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