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Start Strong PA Releases Recommendations on use of ARP Funds to Stabilize Child Care Sector in Pennsylvania

Start Strong PA, of which PPC is a member, held a press conference last week urging policymakers to prioritize recommendations during the FY 2021-22 budget process to allocate the nearly $1.2 billion Pennsylvania is receiving in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to stabilize and strengthen the child care sector. Between April and May, Start Strong PA hosted 12 virtual forums and posted a survey to hear from child care providers and parents on how to invest the ARP funds to better support the system. We heard from more than 1,000 participants and used their feedback to make specific recommendations to the Wolf Administration and the legislature on prioritizing the funding.

During the press conference, Start Strong PA released a report highlighting the general themes that arose in the forums and the recommendations the campaign is making to help the child care sector immediately. Five policy recommendations emerged from the statewide forums that can be passed through budget enactment in the fiscal code before the end of June, as the General Assembly finalizes the 2021-22 budget. The policy recommendations include the following:

  • Provide payments to child care providers serving families receiving a subsidy to be used exclusively for recruitment of new staff and retention of existing staff;
  • Eliminate copays for families receiving subsidy and use ARP funds to reimburse child care providers for the loss of copays;
  • Advertise the child care subsidy program, focusing on targeted geographic areas, to assist more families in getting back to work. Further, the ARP funds should fund all child care subsidy slots, so no family has to wait to receive services;
  • Pay subsidized child care providers based on enrollment and not attendance beginning July 1st, 2021 through 2024, consistent with proposed child care subsidy regulations. Additionally, retroactively pay subsidized child care providers who have suffered losses due to under-enrollment from September 1st, 2020, through June 30th, 2021; and
  • Fund an additional 3,000 high-quality, contracted infant/toddler slots to help more families get back to work.

Start Strong PA also recommended that the administration and legislature create a workgroup to convene and issue a report within 60 days of the signing of the fiscal code, to consider the remaining forum and survey recommendations to determine how to spend the rest of the ARP funds.

Learn more about the forums – including links to recordings – and see the report and recommendations.


Impact of Stimulus Funds on Kids and Families: What it Means for the State Budget

In May, the U.S. Treasury released federal guidance on how state and local governments can use funds from the American Rescue Plan or ARP.

Watch PPC Communications Director Carolyn Myers explain what this means for children and families in Pennsylvania, and how it fits into the state budget puzzle nearing its June 30th deadline.

You can also check out our presentation that includes the essential elements of the ARP by policy Area and the next steps for the proposed American Jobs Plan and the proposed American Families Plan within the Biden Administration's federal budget.


Clarion County Home Visiting Event Highlights Family-Centered Services

The Childhood Begins at Home campaign hosted a virtual event last week with House Majority Whip Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion). Parent educators and directors from Jefferson-Clarion Early Head Start emphasized the importance of evidence-based home visiting for families receiving services. Other attendees included: Teresa Holdren, Director of Clarion County Children and Youth Services; Drew Welsh, Clarion County District Attorney; Ed Heasley, Clarion County Commissioner; Pam Johnson, Executive Director, Jefferson-Clarion Head Start; Kara McFalls, Associate Executive Director of Pennsylvania Head Start Association; and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids State Director Bruce Clash.

The campaign seeks a $6.3 million increase in the 2021-22 state budget to expand home visiting services for families across Pennsylvania. The Early Head Start directors and parent educators highlighted the effectiveness of evidence-based home visiting services, which can help families with parenting skills and modeling age-appropriate behaviors for children, among many other important services. Rep. Oberlander mentioned her support for evidence-based home visiting and described the bipartisan support the program enjoys.

Read more: Clarion County Officials Discuss Benefits of Voluntary Home Visiting Programs


Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Releases "Preventing Childhood Lead Exposure in Pennsylvania" Report

Recently, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a partner of Lead-Free Promise Project (an initiative of Public citizens for Children and Youth and part of the Thriving PA agenda), released a report, Preventing Childhood Lead Exposure in Pennsylvania. The report discusses the nearly 9,000 young children in Pennsylvania exposed to lead each year and the impacts of that exposure on their futures. Lead exposure during childhood can lead to future learning disabilities, poor school performance, behavior issues, and problems with impulse control. Due to those impacts, lead exposure prevention has become a priority for law enforcement to ensure less juvenile and adult crime throughout the commonwealth.

In Pennsylvania, the primary source for lead poisoning is lead-based paint, which was banned in residential use in 1978. However, Pennsylvania ranks 5th in the country for old housing, and 70% of our housing was built before the ban, leading to higher than average lead exposures for children and families statewide.

Two press conferences were held in Berks and Lehigh Counties with the report's release, and you can read local press coverage from the events below.


General Assembly Stays Busy with Public Education Bills

The Senate and House Education Committees advanced a list of bills during last week’s session, with several of interest to PPC, and we formally weighed in on two of them.

PPC signed on to a letter of support for SB 324 (Langerholc), which would provide a point of contact within school districts for homeless and foster youth to help establish educational stability for students. As noted in the letter, the legislation breaks down barriers, enables students to focus on their school success, and creates a uniform statewide process to help youth who have experienced education instability. The bill was reported as amended by the committee with a unanimous vote and was voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. It now awaits further action on the Senate floor.

In contrast, PPC joined a group of organizations opposing SB 733 (J. Ward). If enacted, SB 733 would establish a system for school vouchers (dubbed the Keystone Scholarship Program for Exceptional Students), siphoning off much-needed funding for public schools and sending those resources to private schools and other private educational services organizations. The bill was reported as committed from the Senate Education Committee, with Republicans voting in the affirmative and Democrats in the negative.

Also considered was SB 1 (Martin), the Excellence in Education for All Act, which the Senate Education Committee approved mainly on a party-line vote (with one exception). SB 1 seeks to make several reforms, including:

  • Expanding the existing Educational Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship (EITC) tax credit programs;
  • Establishing “Education Opportunity Accounts” for vulnerable students;
  • Creating a bi-partisan Public Charter School Commission; and
  • Enacting various other charter school reforms that have existed in different forms in other bills in previous sessions, including parameters on governing board standards, auditing requirements, and a prohibition on advertising charter schools as “tuition-free,” among other items.

Finally, HR 60 sailed through the House Education Committee with no opposition and passed the House unanimously (201-0). The bill would establish a Select Committee on Jobs of the Future. The resolution recognizes the changing landscape of the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic and seeks to mitigate future supply-chain issues in Pennsylvania. The proposed committee would be comprised of three legislators chosen by the majority leader and two members selected by the minority leader, with a chair chosen by the House Speaker. The committee may call witnesses and seek testimony and issue a report to include recommendations no later than November 30th, 2022.

PPC will continue to monitor these and other education-related bills and inform you of the latest developments.


Busy Legislative Session Week Focuses on Undoing Emergency Declaration

In addition to the education bills described above, PPC followed a flurry of other bills including two pieces of legislation about the Governor’s emergency declaration and a bill amending the child protective services law (CPSL). On Primary Election Day, a majority of voters elected to pass a Constitutional amendment altering rules and timelines for the Governor to declare a disaster emergency.

As we detailed in our last newsletter, Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff introduced HR 106, which passed the Senate (30-20) and House (121-81) with the respective votes mainly along party lines. The bill was signed in the Senate and has passed finally. The resolution has several provisions, including: 

  • Ending the administration’s ability to engage in no-bid, single-source contracting. 
  • Re-establishing mandatory work search requirements for unemployment compensation. 
  • Ending the Governor’s ability to mandate occupancy limits, business closures, and stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic.

Another COVID-19 emergency bill, HB 854 (Ecker), passed concurrently and unanimously in both the House and Senate and has been signed into law by Gov. Wolf as Act 21 of 2021. This bill requires the executive branch to retain records relevant to the COVID-19 emergency and was amended to keep certain waivers of regulations and administrative flexibilities in place through September 30th. 

On an unrelated topic, a bill we continue to monitor is HB 764 (B. Miller), which amends the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) to allow businesses that hire employees who need a required background check to have those employees begin on a provisional basis for 45 days while awaiting the results of the background check. The bill passed the House and now sits in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


Push to Make CHIP Permanent

PPC joined a national effort led by the First Focus Campaign for Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and many key stakeholders in a sign-on letter urging Congress to make the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) permanent.

CHIP is an essential source of children’s coverage. When federal funding for CHIP expired in the fall of 2017, the delay of Congressional action for months caused Pennsylvania and many other states to make contingency plans leaving the security of health insurance at stake for millions of children.

Making CHIP permanent, like Medicaid and other public health programs, would guarantee the program’s existence and eliminate future funding dilemmas.

Let’s make sure the 160,000 Pennsylvania children and their families who rely on CHIP for their comprehensive, affordable health care do not have to worry ever again about coverage needlessly expiring.


In Case You Missed It...

  • Additional federal guidance was released on Friday, June 11th from the Administration for Children and Families related to discretionary supplemental Child Care Development Block Grant funds contained in the American Rescue Plan (totaling nearly $15 billion). Guidance was previously released in May specific to stabilization funds contained in the ARP.
  • Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families recently posted about “States Move Toward Multi-Year Continuous Eligibility for Children in Medicaid.” Children need consistent access to health care, especially in their early years when frequent screenings, vaccinations, and well-child checkups are critical to their development and school readiness. 
  • Last week Gov. Wolf and Democratic legislative leaders held a press conference demanding fair funding for public schools, where it was noted the state now ranks 45th in the nation for its state share of education spending (down from 44th).
  • PA Schools Work released 2021 district fact sheets, which provide state and local funding snapshots for public schools across the commonwealth.
  • Pennsylvania’s Department of Education announced the approval of nearly $400,000 in Farm to School grants that will fund 39 projects to improve access to health, local foods for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
  • The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), and the PA Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) released the Spring 2021 School District Budget Report, which reveals how school districts are using - or expect to use - federal COVID funds. 

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680 | info@papartnerships.org

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