Libby bill would increase access to child care for low-income families

Posted: April 10, 2017 | Senator Libby

A bill introduced by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, would increase payments to childcare providers that serve low-income families. The bill — LD 166 “An Act To Increase Reimbursement for Child Care Services” — was subject of a public hearing Monday in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

The state reimburses child care providers for services provided to families receiving assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides financial assistance to low-income families with children. The 2011-2012 biennial budget reduced the reimbursement rate to 50 percent of local market rates, where it has remained since. Sen. Libby’s bill would return the Medicaid reimbursement rate for child to 75 percent of local market rates.

Submarket rates for child care reimbursements discourage providers from accepting children from families who are receiving TANF assistance.

“Child care providers want to accept children into their care, without regard to the family’s ability to pay,” said Sen. Libby. “But with reimbursement rates so low, they are in a position where they must either accept at a significant loss or turn away these children. This raises significant questions of equitable access to childcare for families who can neither afford to stay home from work nor to pay full price for child care.”

Child care providers operate at tight margins, even though they provide a vital service to Maine’s families. If Maine continues shortchanging providers, struggling families will increasingly be left without options for child care as providers turn to families who pay full price.

Joel Merry, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff, spoke in favor of the bill, specifically about the impact that access to high-quality early child care can have on a child’s outcomes in life. “We know from our own experiences what the research and evidence show — getting all children, and especially at-risk children, off on the right start in life can reduce later crime,” he said.

LD 166 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.