Supporting a "Hold Harmless" for 13 Rural Counties On Wednesday, child care providers and community leaders from across Ohio provided testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in support of a “hold harmless” to avoid proposed rate decreases for Ohio’s publicly funded child care program in 13 Ohio counties (Allen, Ashland, Auglaize, Belmont, Erie, Harrison, Knox, Ottawa, Portage, Preble, Sandusky, Seneca, and Trumbull). These rate reductions, which were proposed by the Administration and would go into effect on July 1, 2019, come just six months after the majority of these counties received small but critical rate increases when a long-time rate reimbursement injustice in 38 counties was rectified. A hold harmless would ensure that no county receives lower rates than they currently do. The proposed rate update was motivated by federal corrective action for insufficient rates and guidance that requires Ohio to ensure all base rates reach the low threshold of the 25th percentile of the market rate with new federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds. This would equate to publicly funded children having access to a mere 25% of the market in their community. The federal standard for equal access, as opposed to this incremental step in ensuring a sufficient floor for rates, is the 75th percentile. Unfortunately, while the overwhelming effect of the proposed 2018 Market Rate Survey implementation is very positive, these 13 primarily rural counties will see an actual decrease in rates under the current proposal, which will create serious challenges to current providers being able to continue offering care to low-income families. At a time when providers are so desperately in need of a rate increase as they work towards meeting our state quality mandates, the proposed amendment to ensure these 13 counties are “held harmless” simply aims to maintain status quo so that no children lose access to care. Highlights from Wednesday's Testimony "The ability for programs to operate competitively and make decisions based on efficiency is limited, especially in communities where child care businesses are not operated by large chains but rather solo entrepreneurs and mom-and-pop shops. How can you justify, for example, a single center operating in the north corner of Preble County, bordering Montgomery and Darke Counties receiving lower rates than their peers just a few miles down the road?" - Lynanne Gutierrez, Groundwork Ohio (Read Full Testimony) "The primary reason for so many centers closing in Appalachia is a rate structure that varies by county and results in a significant variance in rates across the state. Providers in Appalachia are paid at lower rates than in other areas of the state." - Ronald J. Rees, Coalition for Ohio Appalachian Development (Read Full Testimony) "I believe in quality care. By providing quality, I can improve the lives of many children and families in my community... I would love to continue to meet the needs of each of the children and their families as well as being a positive model child care provider in Lima, Ohio." - Domanica Ede, Safe Haven Family Childcare. Allen County (Read Full Testimony) "High-quality child-care crosses sectors as both a workforce issue for families, and an education and school readiness issue for children. The children and families of Ohio, including those in the 13 counties where reductions are pending, deserve the funding and resources necessary to serve all eligible children, and especially infants and toddlers." - Peg Tazewell, Knox County Head Start, Knox County (Read Full Testimony) "Why are we receiving a decrease when these others are receiving an increase in rates? In fact, last year when we received a rate increase, I was able to provide a small but critical wage increase to my staff. Facing a reduction now, I will not be able to sustain that increase." - Lora Maxel, The Kid Connection Child Care Center, Preble County (Read Full Testimony) "Should the state provide us with less funding, our program will be forced to immediately decrease or eliminate much-needed resources in which our children currently benefit from such as classroom supplies, competitive wages and benefits for our teaching staff and exceeding minimum child/teacher classroom ratios." - Michelle Davidson, Imagination Station Learning Center, Preble County (Read Full Testimony) "We are not just a number on a piece of paper. We are living breathing human beings that work our tail ends off every day because of the love of children. Please do not make it any harder than it already is." - Micki Sittloh, St. Clair Academy Child Care Center, Preble County (Read Full Testimony) "Receiving less money while meeting the same requirements as other centers who are seeing an increase is unfair... Please reconsider before reducing funding for families in need." - Karen Charles, Eaton Day Care Center, Preble County (Read Full Testimony) "Many times employees will move to one of our urban neighbors getting significantly more money. That is an ongoing story in Preble County. Lowering the reimbursement rate will only exacerbate this problem." - Jane Marshall, Preble County (Read Full Testimony) "Each and every family childcare business must follow the rules in place for infants and their businesses, including my own, and these will be greatly impacted if reimbursement rates are decreased in my county." - MaryBeth Bush, Mary's Little Lambs Childcare and Preschool, Trumbull County (Read Full Testimony) State Budget Progress As budget hearings have wrapped up in the Ohio Senate, we expect to see a Substitute Bill soon. The Sub. Bill will then head to Conference Committee, where members of the House, Senate, and Administration will work together to create a final bill, which will then need to be passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor before the start of the fiscal year--July 1, 2019. We will keep you updated on the status of early learning issues in the budget over the next three weeks and share any additional opportunities to advocate for Ohio's littlest learners!
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