SB5237 creates the Fair Start for Kids Act to provide an affordable and accessible system of high quality child care and early childhood development programs for the overall well-being of children and families and to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. SB5237 first stabilizes the child care industry and then expands access to a comprehensive continuum of high quality early childhood development programs, including infant and school-age child care, preschool, parent and family supports, and perinatal to three services. The legislature recognizes this continuum as critical to meeting different families' needs and offering every child in Washington access to a fair start.
The Fair Start for Kids is created in the state treasury. No revenue source is identified. Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation, for purposes that include, but are not limited to:
- Increase child care subsidy rates;
- Expand access to affordable health care for staff;
- Support and expand access and enhanced rates for WCCC, ECEAP, and early ECEAP.
Amends existing statute about the Early Learning Advisory Council to included new roles related to implementing the Fair Start Act including assist in policy development, promote racial equity and inclusion, and fiscal accountability.
The bill reconstitutes ELAC and names the composition of the 43 members.
Beginning July 1, 2023, and subject to the availability of funds, inflationary rate adjustments will be made every two years to adjust for ECEAP, Early ECEAP, Dual Language and Infant Care Incentives.
This bill changes family eligibility by July 1, 2025 for the Working Connections Child Care Program when the household's annual income is at or below 85 percent of the state median income adjusted for family size, the household meets all other eligibility requirements, and the child receiving care is:
Aged 13 years or younger; or
Aged 19 years or younger and has a verified special need or is under court supervision
The department shall adopt a copayment model based on annual income and will calculate copayments based on annual income and state median income range.
Beginning July 1, 2023, the law waives the work requirements for the Working Connections program as a condition of receiving child care benefits if the applicant is enrolled as a full-time student.
Amends ECEAP and expanded ECEAP statute:
- Removes the 100% of FPL eligibility language, replacing with a family with “financial need.”
- Makes homeless children automatically eligible (McKinney Vinto definition)
- Children who were in Early Head Start, ESIT or Early ECEAP, or ECLIPSE are categorically eligible as are Indian children beginning in the 2030-31 school year after consultation and agreement with the state’s federally recognized tribes and at or below 100% of SMI adjusted for family size.
- Adds connecting with culturally competent, disability positive therapists and supports where possible to the family support services opportunities.
- Changes allowable above income to up to 100% of SMI (was 130% of FPL) along with one risk factor (existing statute).
- Homelessness removed as a risk factor because would be automatically eligible
- Note: still limited to 25% of statewide slots
- Establishes that by July 2022, the department will provide supports to aid eligible providers in providing trauma-informed care and then defines those supports.
- Creates a dual language designation and provide a subsidy rate enhancement for licensed or certified child care providers who are accepting state subsidy; early childhood education and assistance program contractors; or birth to three early childhood education and assistance program contractors.
Other components of the bill include:
- Establishes that DCYF will develop a rate model for nonstandard child care hours
- Creates equity grants for Play and Learn groups, ECEAP, Early ECEAP Centers and Homes
- Provides or contracted employer supported child care
- Directs DCYF to administer or contract for infant and early childhood mental health consultation services to child care providers participating in early achievers
- Amends Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
- Creates a new perinatal to three family engagement strategy
- Provide an infant rate enhancement for licensed or certified child care providers and Early ECEAP providers
- Expands Early Therapeutic and Preventive Services
Finally, the bill distinguishes which aspects are subject to availability of funding.
- Establishes a new account for child care and early learning purposes and includes a non-exhaustive list of allowable uses.
- Expands eligibility and decreases co-payments in the Working Connections Child Care Program and expands eligibility in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
- Provides increased rates, training, grants, supports, and services for child care and early learning providers.
- Increases prenatal-to-three supports for providers and families.
- Adds the military spouse liaison created within the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Early Learning Advisory Council.
- Retains the provisions of SSB 5237 and makes the following changes.
- Fair Start for Kids Account o Adds implementing the provisions of collective bargaining agreements for family child care providers negotiated pursuant to state law as an allowable use for the account.
- Adds that subsidies funded under this section are subject to bargaining. • Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC)
- Removes the requirement that the Governor appoint certain ELAC members.
- Provides that certain entities appoint their own representative and identifies the appointment authority as follows: • A representative of a Head Start, Early Head Start, or Migrant/Seasonal Head Start program is to be appointed by the Head Start Collaboration Office;
- A representative of educational service districts is to be appointed the statewide association of educational service districts;
- A provider responsible for programs under section 619 of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to be appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction;
- A representative of the state agency responsible for part C of the federal IDEA is to be appointed by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families;
- A representative of ECEAP is to be appointed by an association representing ECEAP programs;
- A representative of licensed family home providers is to be appointed by the largest union representing child care providers; • A representative of child care centers is to be appointed by an association representing child care centers;
- An infant or early childhood mental health expert is to be appointed by the Barnard Center for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health at University of Washington;
- A family, friend, and neighbor caregiver is to be appointed by the largest union representing child care providers; and
- A pediatrician is to be appointed by the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Working Connections Child Care (WCCC)
- Removes 13-year-olds and 19-year-olds with verified special needs or under court supervision from WCCC eligibility.
- Expands WCCC eligibility up to 60 percent of state median income (SMI) instead of 75 percent of SMI by July 1, 2025.
- Makes WCCC eligibility that is subject to appropriations up to 75 percent of SMI instead of 100 percent of SMI by July 1, 2027 instead of July 1, 2025.
- Adjusts copayment schedule to align with eligibility changes. o Adds that the child care subsidy rates section does not interfere with, impede, or in any way diminish the right of employees to bargain collectively with their employers through the exclusive bargaining representatives as provided for under state law.
- Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) o Includes Indian children with incomes at or below 100 percent of SMI as eligible for the ECEAP entitlement on July 1, 2026 instead of the 2030-31 school year.
- Provider Supports o Specifies that Birth-to-Three ECEAP providers access the complex needs fund for ECEAP instead of child care.
- Specifies that trauma-informed care supports may be utilized by eligible providers for certain purposes.
- Removes references to coaches and overall service delivery coordination as it relates to reflective supervision and professional development for infant and early childhood mental health consultation.