Friday, December 17, 2010

Changes to Working Connections Child Care subsidy eligibility

Additional reductions are being made to the WorkFirst budget (which includes child care subsidies) to balance it for the current fiscal year (which ends June 30, 2011) and the 2011-2013 biennium. This is in addition to $51 million in cuts to WorkFirst announced last August, which at that time included moving from 200 to 175 percent federal poverty level for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies eligibility.

These new reductions are needed in part because assumed emergency Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding was not appropriated by the federal government, and in part because of increased caseloads.

Here is what the new reductions mean for WCCC (information clarified on Jan. 10). 
  • Families who currently pay a monthly copayment of $50 or more will see a $10 increase in their copayment. 
  • All new families applying for WCCC must also receive a TANF grant or be determined eligible for TANF to be eligible for WCCC.  
  • All eligible families who currently receive WCCC are income eligible until their income is more than 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines. For example, a family of three can’t earn more than $2,671 a month.
Please note: Families must reapply for WCCC before their current eligibility period ends or they will need to meet the new WCCC eligibility requirement.

As part of the August 2010 cuts, on Jan. 1, anyone receiving WCCC subsidies who is above 175 percent FPL will no longer receive the benefit. The 1,112 families affected by this, and the child care providers who serve them, have been notified.

All the WorkFirst reductions will be posted online next week at
We at DEL know that these are tough messages for families and providers. We must keep working to come out of this economic situation stronger than before, and smarter about leveraging every available resource. DEL is participating in an effort to put forward to Gov. Chris Gregoire a set of recommendations around redesigning WorkFirst, and will share more information about that when it is available.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early learning in the Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget

When releasing her proposed 2011-2013 budget this morning, Governor Chris Gregoire said the single most common denominator of individuals in state prisons is not drugs or alcohol, but lack of education. Her proposed budget tries to protect education, she said, especially in children’s earliest years.

Still, Washington faces a $4.6 billion shortfall in the coming biennium due to the national economic downturn. The Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget includes many difficult choices. It is one that reflects the fact that demands and costs for state services are up when revenues are down.

You can find the Governor’s entire budget proposal here. This is the budget for the biennium that begins on July 1, 2011. Her proposal goes to the Legislature as a “blueprint” for budget deliberations during legislative session.

Specific to our state’s youngest learners, the proposed budget:
  • Increases enrollment slots for 4-year-olds in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, while reducing slots for 3-year-olds. (Total of 460 slots cut from ECEAP, and a proportional cut to DEL ECEAP administration, for $9 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Career and Wage Ladder program ($3 million savings)
  • Reduces funding for administration for Seasonal Child Care subsidies ($2 million savings)
  • Does not carry forward Reach Out and Read literacy funding, and does not fund Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS)
  • Suspends planned increase of state-funded all-day kindergarten—continuing to fund the program for lowest income schools ($57 million savings)
  • Suspends the smaller class size and employee salary increase initiatives under Initiatives 728 ($860.2 million savings) and 732 ($253.3 million savings).
  • Eliminates K-4 class-size reduction funds ($216 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Children’s Health Program, which provides medical coverage for 27,000 children whose citizenship has not been documented ($59 million savings) and eliminates the Basic Health Plan ($230.2 million state fund savings; $117.3 million federal savings)
  • Proposes a new public/private partnership focused on reducing the impact of toxic stress and trauma (adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs), building on the success of the Family Policy Council and the Community Public Health and Safety Networks.
We at DEL are still looking at the entire proposed budget and will provide more information as we have it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Legislature wraps up assembly days: What was the early learning conversation?

The Legislature finished up a week of committee meetings today. During these “assembly days,” lawmakers get updates on key issues that they’ll likely focus on during the upcoming legislative session (the 2011 session starts Jan. 10).
Our state’s youngest learners continued to be a hot topic on Capitol Campus. DEL updated legislators on several initiatives:
  • On Monday, we and our partners at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction updated the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) pilot, currently under way in 115 classrooms around the state. Click here to watch that presentation, which includes a “real world” view from a kindergarten teacher participating in the WaKIDS pilot.
  • On Thursday, we shared information with the House Education Appropriations Committee on the progress of the preschool work group established in Senate Bill 6759. The work group is charged with creating a plan that looks at what a “voluntary program of early learning” might look like in Washington. (You can read more about this on the preschool work group web page.) Click here to watch that presentation.
  • And earlier today, DEL Director Bette Hyde updated the House Early Learning & Children’s Services Committee on DEL’s accomplishments and next steps. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach joined Bette to talk about our strong Early Learning Joint Resolution Partnership, and the key priorities from the Early Learning plan we are focused on implementing in 2011. Video of that work session will be online at soon.
Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach, DEL Director Bette Hyde and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn present to the House Early Learning & Children's Services Committee on Friday, Dec. 10.

Also this week: Both House and Senate committees heard updates on an effort to create recommendations to redesign WorkFirst, Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The WorkFirst program includes Working Connections Child Care subsidies.
Recommendations for how to redesign WorkFirst as a sustainable program that helps vulnerable residents on the path to self-sufficiency are expected to be delivered to the Governor in January. Watch the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee work session here and the House Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee work session here.