Child care subsidy quality assurance program approved

Lawmakers gave final approval May 29 to a bill aimed at creating a comprehensive system for assessing and promoting quality care among the state’s publicly subsidized child care providers.

LB507, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, adopts the Step Up to Quality Act, which will put in a place a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for child care providers.

The system will develop quality ratings based on a five-tiered system and assign ratings to applicable programs. The QRIS will be available to all child care providers and early childhood education programs in the state, but will be required for programs that receive significant public funds.

Mandatory participation will be phased in over a three-year period. Beginning July 1, 2014, programs that received over $500,000 in child care subsidy assistance in fiscal year 2011-12 will become subject to the QRIS and programs that received over $250,000 in that fiscal year will join starting July 1, 2015.

Beginning July 1, 2016, programs that received over $250,000 in subsidies in the previous fiscal year will become participants.

The state departments of education and health and human services will be required to develop, implement and provide oversight to the QRIS and will make program ratings public beginning in 2017. The QRIS will include incentives for participating programs to improve their quality of care based on measurable outcomes.

Child care facilities subject to the bill’s provisions must achieve a rating of step three or higher in order to be eligible for a higher reimbursement rate. Facilities that have regained licensure following a revocation will be eligible to participate in the rating system.

The bill also includes provisions originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad as LB625, which will expand eligibility for the state’s subsidized child care program.

Currently, eligibility is capped at 120 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). LB507 increases the rate to 125 percent of FPL in FY 2013-14 and 130 percent of FPL in FY2014-15 and thereafter.

The bill passed 42-1 and takes effect immediately.

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