State action on child care subsidy reimbursement rates

Legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to address child care subsidy reimbursement rates. We are pleased to report that those bills are moving through the committee process! Months (and years!) of advocacy got us to this point.

Thank you to Senator Nancy King and Delegate Ariana Kelly for introducing these important pieces of legislation and for your attention to the need for quality child care in the State of Maryland. We also thank the committee leaders for considering these important issues.

One of the bills (SB 293/HB 395) would require the Maryland Department of Education to examine the way we determine payment rates, and consider whether to look at the true cost of providing high-quality child care or to continue a market rate survey. The current market rate survey approach only looks at what providers charge and what parents pay, which we know is disconnected from the cost of quality operations.

The other (SB 294/HB 418) calls for a review of the payment rates every two years, with a report on how rates will be adjusted to approach the cost of high-quality care, along with the impact of the new rates on families and providers.

The state of reimbursement rate policy
The reality is, the current payment rates in Maryland are shameful, the result being that fewer providers are enrolling subsidized children; and low subsidy payment rates undermine quality operations.

Here’s how it looks in our community:
• For care for an infant in a child care center in our county, the monthly payment to a provider is $865, but if Maryland paid at the 75th percentile would be $1,279.
• For care for a four-year-old in a child care center in Prince George’s County, the monthly payment to a provider is $546. If Maryland paid at the 75th percentile, as we did in 2001, that amount would be $871.
• If the provider is at the highest tier in EXCELS, she would be paid $687 for the care of that four-year-old.

Data source: National Women’s Law Center 2016: Red Light Green Light: State Child Care Assistance Policies in 2016

Maryland must invest to increase payment rates to providers to ensure access to programs with a foundation of health and safety and access to EXCELS quality providers. Maryland’s final FY 2017 budget provided an increase in child care funding of $5.7 million, including a $2 million increase in federal funds and a $3.7 million increase in state general funds. This is a modest but important investment and acknowledgment in the crucial role child care plays for working families and for school readiness. We thank Governor Hogan for including funds for child care subsidy in his FY18 budget proposal. We urge the General Assembly to invest in child care in the state budget.

Policy in real life
As advocates, we will continue to lift up the stories of families succeeding because of access to subsidy, and their ability to purchase quality child care. Still, too many are left out and we will be advocating for these vulnerable children as well.

As I testified to the Joint Committee in October 2016, for the Prince George’s County’s 2015-16 school year, only 38% of children entered kindergarten with the skills and behaviors necessary to succeed (Maryland State Department of Education, School Readiness Report). The quality of child care, and the experience of their birth-to-five years, is crucial to school readiness. Subsidy access is crucial in the quality debate.

Prince George’s Child Resource Center supports SB 293/HB 395 and SB 294/HB 418.