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New Rule to Improve Child Care Access in Ohio

By Troy Hunter, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Performance, Groundwork Ohio Follow Troy on Twitter and LinkedIn

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently announced a new rule that will enhance child care access, affordability, and stability within the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The CCDF is a federal program authorized by the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that provides child care subsidies to eligible low-income families. CCDF improves access to care and promotes high-quality early learning experiences for all children. The new rule lays out new requirements and recommendations for states utilizing CCDF funds.

Ohio will need to meet the following requirements:

  • increase affordability to families by capping copayments and recommended to waive copayments for specific groups,

  • support providers by aligning payment procedures with the private pay market, and

  • support families by reducing disruptions and an administrative burden by using family participation in other public benefit programs for eligibility.

Additionally, the new rule lays out specific exemptions and flexibility for Tribal Lead agencies.

Groundwork Ohio provided public comment during the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and many of the rule changes align with the final report produced by Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care and Step Up to Quality Study Committee.

The rule is effective on April 30, 2024. The Ohio Department of Children and Youth is required to comply through ACF review and approval of CCDF Plans. Temporary transitional waivers of up to two years are allowed for states needing time to comply.

Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care

In 2022, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), estimated that more than 115,000 children receive publicly funded child care. The utilization of early learning programs among Ohio's youngest children is limited. Just 12% of eligible children aged 0-2 have access to Early Head Start and a mere 4.3% of children in the same age group from low- and moderate-income backgrounds receive child care subsidies.

With over half of children from families with low incomes not having access to early learning opportunities, there is a substantive need to address systemic issues that are creating barriers in accessing care.

Under the new rule, Ohio will be required to…

  • Cap family co-payments at 7% of household income.

  • Post sliding fee scale information online.

  • Implement payment practices consistent with the private-pay market.

  • Enhance child care supply and quality for children in underserved areas children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers.

  • Minimize disruptions to families through streamlined eligibility policies.

Ohio’s Families are Paying the Price for the Under-invested Child Care System

Currently in Ohio, copayments for families whose household income is between 105% to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) do not exceed 7% of their monthly income. However, the percentage of income of the copay starts to rise at 205% above the FPL and continues to climb to 300%, the maximum amount for continuing eligibility for publicly funded child care. A single mother of two children would pay 24% of their monthly income if their household income is 295% above the FPL.

In addition to capping copayments, Ohio can help support child care for families by waiving copayments altogether for specific groups. The new rule recommends eliminating copayments for families below 150% of the federal poverty level, families experiencing homelessness, families with children with disabilities, those in foster care, and children enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start. With an eliminated copayment a single mother of two children could pay for a yearly supply of diapers for both her children. 

Easing the Burden on Families

Trying to secure child care can be challenging enough, let alone navigating complex systems to get assistance. The new rule recommends states adopt policies that minimize disruptions to parent employment, education, or training opportunities. By streamlining enrollment processes and implementing presumptive eligibility, the rule makes it easier for families to access child care assistance promptly. This flexibility reduces barriers, allowing families to make timely decisions about child care options that align with their needs.

Providers Are Subsidizing a Broken System

There is a strong need in Ohio to address the problems in the early childhood education workforce and child care providers play an important role in accessing high-quality early learning experiences for children. Over half of early childhood educators in Ohio surveyed reported that their program was experiencing staffing shortages and that their program was underenrolled due to capacity within the last six months. Ohio’s early childhood educators make on average $14.22 per hour and one out of every six left their job in 2023.The new rule supports providers by requiring timely payments based on child enrollment. This aligns payment practices with those in the private market, creating a more stable environment for child care providers.

Making Child Care More Accessible in Ohio

The new rule for CCDF also promotes a more accessible, affordable, and stable child care system.

By addressing programmatic and systemic challenges, the rule will:

  • Reduce costs for families

  • Improve payment practices

  • Expand choices

  • Cut red tape

Ohio has yet to respond on what recommendations from the new rule it plans to implement or how it will meet the new required changes. However, Governor Mike DeWine has been clear that child care is a priority issue for Ohio.

“Many Ohio parents must choose between taking on full-time, full-year work or staying unemployed or underemployed, because they cannot afford the high cost of childcare.” Governor Mike DeWine

The new rule opens the door to a better, more supportive, and stable system in Ohio. The state needs to continue to build a child care subsidy program that meets the needs of families and contributes to an effective child care system where parents can work and children can learn.


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