With three small children in tow, Vernon resident Tanjua Damon-Merrow, testified to the need of extending child care subsidies for the unemployed under the “Care 4 Kids” (C4K) program, especially in these turbulent economic times.
Damon-Merrow, a parent member of Parent Power and a member of the Vernon School Readiness Collaborative, does not benefit from the C4K program herself, but has heard many stories of parents losing their jobs and therefore, unable to keep their children in quality day care or preschool programs.
“Why? Because the childcare subsidy they receive does not provide appropriate time frames for parents to seek a new job in the economic climate being faced here in Connecticut as well as the nation,” she said before the Human Services Committee during a Feb. 5 public hearing.
The proposal she spoke in favor of, H.B. 5426, would extend C4K coverage to unemployment compensation timelines– now 26 weeks of assistance. But it's not just the monetary help that is of concern – it's also for the stability of the child who may find themselves pulled from a stable, early care and educational environment.
“Parents, children, families need the extra time to secure employment while providing a structured, quality program that children and families are comfortable with and know,” Damon-Merrow added.
H.B. 5426's sponsor, Rep. Beth Bye, (co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Jarmoc and Rep. David McCluskey) also spoke to the disruption caused to the child if they have to be removed from their child care facility.
“These are extraordinary times,” said bill proponent Liz Brown, director of Government Relations for the Commission on Children. “This should be seen as essential – this is an emergency. We need a coordinated effort.”
The bill was also supported by Jamey Bell, executive director of CT Voices for Children, Kathy Queen, executive director of the Wallingford Community Day Care Center, Inc., liaison for state funded child care director's forum and member of the CT Early Childhood Alliance and Darlene Ragozzine of Connecticut-Charts-A-Course.
“By correlating the 'Care 4 Kids' eligibility for lower income families to the federally increased time for unemployment benefits, we help reduce the extreme stress on the family structure and allow time for the parent to secure alternative employment,” said Queen, who also noted that “C4K” reimbursement rates have not been adjusted since 2001, and providers depend on those meager rates to keep their programs running. “Eliminating service for the unemployed parents....merely complicates this already grossly underfunded system and creates the potential for the loss of many more jobs as child care staff are laid off or programs are closed,” she said.
Rep. Bye also sponsored another bill (co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Jarmoc) at the public hearing, H.B. 5841, “An Act Concerning A Uniform Reporting Form for Preschool and Child Care Programs.”
Bye, along with Liz Brown, Jamey Bell, Darlene Ragozzine, Dona Ditrio, director of New Opportunities in Waterbury and Karen Rainville, executive director of the Connecticut Association for the Education of Young Children, and Helen Figueroa, deputy director of CT Association for Human Services, testified in favor of the bill, which would reduce the duplication of reporting requirements.
“Bill 5841 is sending you a message that the delivery of quality early care and education services has gotten way too complicated and simple steps could be taken to save the state some money,” said Figueroa.
“A program that receives both DSS and SDE School Readiness funding will in the course of 12 months, complete more than 77 basic administrative reports,” said Rainville. “Add to that separate grant applications for both funding streams, entering every child into the state pre-K information system twice a year, entering every staff [member] into the CT Professional Development Registry and ensuring it is continually updated, NAEYC accreditation requirements, assisting every parent in applying for Care 4 Kids program and completing detailed monthly reports for those who receive Care 4 Kids and all of the requirements of the Department of Health. Time taken away from an administrator's capacity to focus on providing a quality early learning experience for Connecticut's children. Is this really how we want to spend our limited resources?”
“The first two weeks of every month are devoted to 'building reports' to ensure integrity and appropriate assignment of services to funding,” added Ditrio. “This effort takes approximately 120 hours each month.”
Ditrio said that a uniform reporting system would be more cost- and time-efficient, and fully supported the bill's passage.
From H.B. 5841, came a similar bill, H.B. 6544, “An Act Simplifying Procedures for Early Care and Early Education Facilities,” introduced by the Human Services Committee, went to a public hearing before the Human Services Committee on March 3. The bill's purpose would be to streamline procedures for caregivers of young children and eliminate unnecessary costs.
|Dona D. 350.JPG||69.34 KB|
|Karen R. 300.JPG||52.23 KB|
|Kathy Q. 1 300.JPG||42.67 KB|