The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee last week approved a substantial increase in funding for a program to assist low-income families with childcare expenses, along with other enhanced investments in early childhood education.
The Joint Finance Committee, a 12-member panel of representatives and senators from both parties who are charged with drafting the state’s operating budget, voted Tuesday to direct the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services to invest an additional $13 million in Delaware’s Purchase of Care program, funding that will allow the state’s reimbursement rate to meet 2021 the market rate benchmark. The allocation follows an $18.9 million increase in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.
The JFC also voted to double funding for the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Assistance Program to $12.2 million to serve more 3- and 4-year-olds, and allocated $4 million for House Bill 33S to lower preschool special education student-teacher ratios.
|HOUSE BILL 33S – INCREASING FUNDING FOR PRESCHOOL CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES||Currrent Status – House Passed 40-0-1. Out of Committee 3/16/23|
|House Sponsors – Williams, Heffernan, Baumbach, Bush, Griffith, Lynn, Morrison, Osienski / Hensley||Senate Sponsors – Sturgeon, Gay, Hoffner, McBride, Poore, Sokola, Walsh|
|House Yes Votes – Baumbach Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Heffernan Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Senate Yes Votes –|
|House No Votes –||Senate No Votes –|
|House Absents or Not Voting – Bolden||Senate Absent or Not Voting –|
All three funding increases were first outlined by Governor John Carney in his major childcare investments and initiatives announced in January.
The Purchase of Care program is a subsidy that provides support for early childhood and after-school education for children from birth through age 12 living within 185% of the Federal Poverty Limit. The funds help low-income families pay for their childcare so that parents or guardians can work or receive workforce training.
“Without state support, childcare would simply fall out of reach for thousands of struggling families,” said Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, a leading advocate for expanding access to affordable early childhood education and care. “The funding approved by the Joint Finance Committee this week will help providers hire and retain quality educators, while I continue fighting for funding in this budget cycle to support families and the early education workforce.”
In approving the funding increase, the Joint Finance Committee noted that those funds “to the maximum extent possible” would be used to provide wage increases to childcare workers and address workforce shortages and retention issues.
According to the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, Purchase of Care subsidizes early childhood and after-school education and care for more than 15,000 children, with 65% of them 5 years or younger. Research demonstrates that 90% of brain development happens between birth and age 5.
“For thousands of Delaware families, so much hinges on access to reliable, affordable childcare. Job opportunities, housing, even health care can be influenced by the availability of quality childcare,” said Rep. Sherae’a Moore, who has advocated for increased purchase of care funds. “We still have more to do to ensure that childcare providers in Delaware have the resources necessary to serve the number of families in need, but I commend the members of the Joint Finance Committee for continuing to direct additional funds to this program. It will do a lot of good for a lot of parents and children.”
The vote to increase the investment in Purchase of Care took place during markup, a period when the Joint Finance Committee begins voting on specific funding requests, starting with the governor’s recommended budget.
The Joint Finance Committee will continue voting on funding priorities for the fiscal 2023 operating and supplemental budgets this week. The final budget bills must be approved by the entire General Assembly.