A bill that would make permanent a temporary change in the way Nebraska child care providers are reimbursed through a federal program was considered Feb. 10 by the Health and Human Services Committee.
Under LB68, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jen Day, providers in the federal Child Care Subsidy program would be reimbursed based on enrollment. The program reimbursed providers based on attendance until Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an executive order last April to reimburse based on enrollment instead due to the pandemic, Day said. The bill would make that change — which otherwise will end 30 days after the governor lifts the current COVID-19 state of emergency — permanent.
Day said the state is on the verge of a child care crisis with people leaving the workforce because of the high cost of child care. Continuing the reimbursement based on enrollment would allow child care providers to reduce their costs, she said.
“This policy has been successful,” Day said. “This policy is strengthening our child care system by stabilizing payments to providers and providing access to care for working parents.”
Adam Feser of child advocacy group First Five Nebraska testified in support of LB68. He said the bill would create steady revenue for child care providers and encourage them to accept the children of families who receive the federal subsidy.
“Private-pay families must commit to paying their weekly tuition regardless of attendance. The current model of only reimbursing subsidy providers for attendance makes it risky for providers to enroll children who use it,” Feser said. “Their enrollment occupies a full slot of capacity while often not returning a full slot of tuition.”
Quentin Brown of early childhood education group Educare Lincoln also spoke in support. Brown said organizations like his don’t stop working just because a child isn’t in attendance.
“Whether it’s reaching out to try to understand why a child is absent for a day or a few days, sending home a care package or learning activity, or any number of other contacts that we routinely make, our team is still working on behalf of that child, or children, even when they are not physically present,” Brown said.
Stephanie Beasley, director of the Division of Children and Family Services at the state Department of Health and Human Services, testified in opposition to the bill.
She said that although the governor’s executive order has helped keep child care providers in business during the pandemic, DHHS does not want its provisions to be extended. The bill would cost Nebraska an estimated $26 million next fiscal year, Beasley said, and the fiscal impact to the state would be too great.
The committee took no immediate action on LB68.