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Child care proposed rule seeking comments on making CCDF more affordable and accessible

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Child care proposed rule seeking comments on making CCDF more affordable and accessible

Update – The Afterschool Alliance has drafted comments on this notice that can be reviewed here.

On June 22, the Office of Child Care posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Regulations. Comments on the proposed rule are open through August 28, 2023.

The Child Care and Development Fund supports families in need of child care with vouchers or contracts to place children in any setting accepting participation in the states CCDF system for children and youth ages zero to 13. The proposed rule is intended to make child care access more accessible and affordable for families and more attractive to participating providers. Provisions in the final rule would take place 60 days from the date of publication. The Office of Child Care appears to look forward to hearing from the field on the proposals.

The NPRM notes that 1.5 million children and youth each month are supported by CCDF. According to the National Center for Afterschool and Summer Enrichment, 45 percent of those served with CCDF are school-age.

Similar to early care, afterschool and summer programs serving school-age children have struggled to keep doors open, maintain affordable costs, and ensure staff are well-trained and supported. School-age parents struggle as well. The NPRM reports that a 2022 national survey of parents with children under 14 found that 43 percent of parents reported child care was much harder to find compared to 2021.”

One area of particular importance in responding to this NPRM is to continue emphasizing the need for high-quality options for parents of school-age children. This ensures that parents can work while their kids have safe, enriching places to learn and develop.We encourage the field to take a look and submit their thoughts and comments on areas of importance to them, their families, and programs. A How-To” tool is included on the NPRM page.

Elements of the NPRM Include:

  • Increase child care affordability:
    • The rule notes that family co-payment has been increasing at rates higher than inflation since 2005. In some states, co-payments can reach as high as 27 percent of family income.
       
    • The rule proposes and requests feedback on capping family co-pays at 7 percent of household income. It allows states to eliminate co-pays for families with incomes up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level and families with a child with a disability, and defines additional special populations above 150 percent who may qualify for waived co-pays. Lastly, the rule proposes removing the co-payment requirement entirely for tribal entities.The rule requests input on other flexibilities where the option to waive co-pays would be beneficial.
       
  • Encourage provider participation:
    • The NPRM observes that “prevalent payment practices used in CCDF today can be destabilizing to providers and can disincentivize them from enrolling children who receive subsidies.” It also notes that these practices create a drive to decrease costs, which can detract from investments in quality and staff compensation.
       
    • To establish more provider-friendly practices, the rule would require prospective payment (before the delivery of services) tied to enrollment rather than attendance, similar to private pay models where a family pays for the upcoming period of time. Eight states currently employ prospective pay, while others place the initial burden on providers paying within 21 days of receiving an invoice. 
       
    • To require using grants and contracts for specific groups, including infants and toddlers, children with disabilities, and non-traditional care. Although the NPRM does not mention it, a number of states do successfully use grants for school-age care and could be encouraged to continue doing so. Similar to infant and toddler numbers mentioned in the notice, America After 3 PM data shows that in 2020 for every 1 youth in an afterschool program, 3 more were waiting to get in. Grants can be an important component in bridging the access gap.
       
  • Support Family Access:
    • The rule would provide clearer parameters around the policy of presumed eligibility, allowing a lead agency to grant child care access to a child based on initial information that reasonably indicates they meet requirements. This presumed eligibility can be provided for up to three months while the agency works to establish full documentation.Where aligned, lead agencies could use verification for other benefit programs as sufficient for CCDF eligibility and can also work to align specific components to avoid duplicating documentation for the applicant.Application processes can also be challenging for families, especially when they may require long waits or in-person submission of documents. The rule would encourage options for online submission and the development of screening tools to help identify CCDF or other assistance the family may be eligible for.
       
  • Additional Rule Changes
    • Background Checks: Section 98.43 of the proposed rule would make some clarifications to criminal background check requirements that may be worth reading for providers to see how the proposal could affect operations. The section identifies three potential changes, including a proposal “to clarify the requirement that employment eligibility decisions must be made based on the results of background checks and not after initiating all checks.” 
       
    • It also mentions that while currently, some states allow providers to make determinations on some parts of the background check, this is actually not an allowable procedure, and only the state can provide final documentation of whether a staff member is eligible or ineligible, and must not disclose any specific disqualifying information.
       
    • The NPRM also includes areas specific to funds for the Territories and for Indian Tribes.

The Afterschool Alliance plans to provide comments emphasizing the need for and impact of these regulations on the school-age community, including greater affordability for families, improved practices for providers such as prospective payment, considerations for special populations, and the need for increased use of grants and contracts including specifically for school-age providers. We hope additional school-age voices will also submit their thoughts. Additionally, please reach out if you would like us to echo your thoughts in our comments.

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