Federal & State Update - November 6, 2018

State Update:

We've got an ambitious agenda coming up in Olympia in January!

The state legislature will be back in session in January, and we have a LOT of great ideas for early learning investments. Some of the details are still in process waiting for the Governor's budget and some work with our coalition, but here's an exciting preview of what we're asking for!

ECEAP: We've got big plans! We're likely asking for 3600 new ECEAP slots, an increase in the slot rate of 17% to support staff salaries and compensation, and some significant changes to eligiblity. We're looking at increasing eligibility to 130% of the federal poverty level (for a single parent with 2 kids this is about $13 an hour working full time), and automatic eligibility regardless of income for homeless children and American Indian children.

Student Parents: Expand the degrees allowed for parents to qualify for Working Connections while going to community college, and eliminate the work requirement for full time students.

Child Care: Increase Working Connections Child Care Subsidy rates to the 75th Percentile and give homeless children 12 months of eligibility instead of 4 months.

Early ECEAP: Our state seriously underinvests in infant/toddler care - this year we'll be asking the legislature to fund a brand new Early Head Start style program for high quality, comprehensive center-based care. Very exciting!

 

Federal Update:

Funding

Well, despite the political headwinds funding for early education is doing phenomenally well. Congress and the President agreed on budget for fiscal year 2019 that boosted funding for Head Start, Child Care, and maintained funding for the preschool development grants. Head Start received a $200 million increase, child care $50 million, and $250 million was maintained as a line item for the newly created preschool development grant.  They might not seem like a lot but put it in perspective.  Last year Head Start received a $600 million increase and child care…wait for it…received a $2.4 billion increase. Yes that billion with a “b.” Head Start funds from last year and this year will be used for three purposes: 1) to extend the number of hours each child in Head Start receives (known as duration funding); 2) to expand the number of Early Head Start and Early Head Start child care partnerships; and 3) staff increases.  You should feel really good about this and know that your consistent advocacy with your members of Congress has made a big difference.

Upcoming Bills

In the next Congress you can expect lawmakers to take up two bills that will directly impact Head Start families. First, we expect them to take up a TANF (welfare) reauthorization. Already there is a bipartisan support for expanding opportunities for TANF recipients to go to school and for more focus on poverty reduction vs. work at any job. Second, the higher education act is likely to be taken up as well. This will be an opportunity for the Head Start community to push to make it easier for early learning staff to access public service loans and scholarships and forgiveness programs.

 

Head Start Reauthorization

It’s never too early to think about a possible Head Start reauthorization. Based on the conversations we have had there is a possibility that the next Congress could take up a reauthorization. Some issues that have been raised are the following: 1) reforms and changes to the Designation Renewal System; 2) establishing a birth to 5 grant vs. separate Head Start and Early Head Start grants; and 3) increasing the income eligibility thresholds to 185% of the poverty level so it aligns with the free and reduced lunch program.

Public Charge

The WSA Board of Directors voted two weeks ago to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposal to expand the definition of a “public charge” in order for an immigrant to receive a green card.  Current law takes into consideration only SSI and TANF. The proposed rule would extend this definition to include Medicaid, SNAP, and Section 8 housing vouchers. It would also provide Immigration Judges the discretion to determine whether the someone who receives a green card may in the future use these benefits—essentially giving them fairly free rein to deny green cards to low income immigrants.  WSA decided to oppose this rule because essentially we are putting low income immigrant families in a terrible choice—get the help they need to live and healthy or be allowed entry into the United States. It’s important to note three specific caveats: 1) the new rule does not include utilizing Head Start; and 2) no one is impacted until the rule goes into effect. In other words if you are using a federal benefit now it doesn’t impact your ability to receive a green card; and 3) finally it does not impact services a child receives. So for example if the child is a citizen and getting health care through Medicaid but one or both parents are not citizens it will not impact the evaluation of whether a parent is considered a public charge.

 

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