Revision: Jan. 24, 2023, 11:27 a.m.
SB 237-FN - AS INTRODUCED
SENATE BILL 237-FN
SPONSORS: Sen. Whitley, Dist 15; Sen. Prentiss, Dist 5; Sen. Fenton, Dist 10; Sen. Perkins Kwoka, Dist 21; Sen. Rosenwald, Dist 13; Sen. Watters, Dist 4; Sen. Soucy, Dist 18; Sen. Altschiller, Dist 24; Sen. Chandley, Dist 11; Rep. Long, Hills. 23; Rep. McMahon, Rock. 17; Rep. Wallner, Merr. 19
COMMITTEE: Health and Human Services
This bill modifies the child care scholarship program, establishes a child care workforce program and a regional fingerprinting support program, and makes appropriations for these programs, and for child caregiver supports, early childhood mental health support, and for early childhood education scholarships.
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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.
Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]
Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty Three
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
I. The availability of quality, affordable, safe, and reliable child care is critical to allow parents to remain in the workforce, build a strong and future-focused economy, and provide a supportive environment for healthy child development that prepares children for success in school and in life.
II. Over the past 2 years, the inherent fragility of New Hampshire's child care system has become undeniable and there is an urgent need to improve access to childcare for working families and solidify the child care sector through system-based policy change and investment.
III. Investment and improvement in the child care system has been identified as an essential priority from diverse stakeholders including, businesses, state leaders, providers, early care and education professionals, higher education, faith leaders, and families across New Hampshire.
IV. The child care industry is vital to New Hampshire’s economic success. Yet many New Hampshire businesses are struggling to recruit and retain their workforce and have identified childcare as an important component to solving the burgeoning workforce crisis in New Hampshire. As such, the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association has identified “policies that strengthen the early childhood system including increasing access to quality, affordable childcare to allow caregivers to return to the labor force” as a 2023 public policy priority.
V. In May 2021, the director of the New Hampshire economic and labor market information bureau reported that “increasing the labor force participation rate of women ages 25-54 by just 1.3 percent (10,000) through increased access to child care would add over $1 billion to New Hampshire’s gross domestic product by 2031 and over $1.5 billion in personal income.”
VI. Parents need and deserve equitable access and true choice in the care of their children. Reliable, quality care not only supports parents who choose to enter and want to stay in the workforce, but it also provides critical prevention, health, and development support for children.
VII. Investing in the early years of children's development has demonstrated a substantial return on investment for the economy, families, and children. Access to high quality child care has been shown to support a child’s healthy development and is proven to mitigate the impacts of trauma. Countless studies have shown that access to affordable, quality child care mitigates the impact of adverse childhood experiences, reducing the potential of negative long term impacts.
VIII. Policy change and investment need to be directed at the state’s child care scholarship program for low income working families, the child care workforce, and state infrastructure.
IX. New Hampshire’s child care scholarship program plays a significant role in ensuring all New Hampshire families have choice and access to quality, safe, and reliable child care, regardless of income, geographic location, or field of work. However, federal sources indicate that less than 15 percent of income eligible families have access to child care subsidies.
X. New Hampshire’s child care scholarship program contains policies which no longer match the economic reality of families who live and work in our state. These outdated policies have created barriers to access for families. Revision to eligibility and reimbursement policies would support families qualifying for child care scholarships, incentivize child care programs to open their doors to these families, and provide stability to New Hampshire families.
XI. New Hampshire’s child care workforce is in desperate need of support as outlined in the state’s child care strengthening plan. A lack of available childcare employees has led to longer wait times for child care slots and higher costs for families. For every teacher employed in a child care classroom in New Hampshire, an average of 8 children and their working parents are served. When a teacher leaves and a new recruit cannot be found, a child care program will likely have to tell 8 children and their working parents that they can no longer serve them.
XII. According to the February 2021 study, Constraints on New Hampshire’s Workforce Recovery by the department of health and human services, 54,000 children under 6 years old needed child care but there were only 33,000 licensed slots. This contributes to young people delaying starting families, reduces the number of young people in the workforce, and results in employees having to resign or turn down job offers across all industries.
XIII. New Hampshire needs to support state infrastructure to increase the capacity of the state to effectively implement and manage child care scholarship, workforce support grants, and to ensure that parents have true choice in accessing high quality, affordable child care.
3 New Subparagraphs; New Hampshire Employment Program and Family Assistance Program; Rulemaking. Amend RSA 167:83, II by inserting after subparagraph (q) the following new subparagraphs:
(r) Modification of eligibility for the child care scholarship program as follows:
(1) Adjust income eligibility to 85 percent state median income as federally permitted by the Office of Child Care;
(2) Remove parent cost-share for any eligible family at or below 100 percent of the Federal poverty level and assign a $5 per week cost-share for families greater than 100 percent and at or below 138 percent;
(3) Adjust steps in eligibility to broaden income categories; and
(4) Include enrollment in any higher education program including graduate programs to qualify as an “approved activity” under the child care scholarship work requirement.
(s) Modification of reimbursement for the child care scholarship program as follows:
(1) Permanently implement enrollment-based billing for all providers;
(2) Set reimbursement rates across all programs to match the 75th percentile of market rate survey and/or allow for rates to be set through an alternative “true cost of care” mechanism to be defined by the department of health and human services;
(3) Implement adjustments federally permitted by the office of child care to the market rate survey which more equitably account for geographic differences, inflation, off-hours care, and other costs of child care which are not currently captured in the market rate survey; and upon implementation, the department of health and human services shall develop and engage in training of all staff on program eligibility and reimbursement changes to the child care scholarship program.
4 New Sections; Department of Health and Human Services; Child Care Workforce Fund. Amend RSA 126-A by inserting after section 17-a the following new sections:
126-A:17-b Child Care Workforce Fund and Child Care Workforce Recruitment and Retention Program Established.
I. There is hereby established in the state treasury a child care workforce fund to finance recruitment and retention bonus and benefit grants for eligible New Hampshire child care employers. The fund shall be nonlapsing and continually appropriated to the department of health and human services for the purposes of this section. The state treasurer shall invest the moneys deposited in the fund as provided by law. Interest earned on moneys deposited in the fund shall be deposited into the fund.
II. The department of health and human services, in consultation with the advisory council on child care established in RSA 126-A:17 and the governor's council for thriving children as established in executive order 2020-03, shall designate an entity to administer grants to eligible New Hampshire child care employers and to manage and implement the recruitment and retention program.
III. Grants shall be awarded as follows: An annual grant to child care employers for the purposes of staff retention and recruitment, as calculated by the department. The flexible funding shall be disbursed by the employer in any of the following ways:
(a) Deposit into an eligible, tax-advantaged health savings account or flexible spending account;
(b) Mentor credentialing and support networks for mentors;
(c) Sign-on and/or retention incentives and/or wage increases;
(d) Professional costs such as training hours, CPR, or memberships in professional organizations;
(e) Child care tuition assistance;
(f) Credit towards the employee’s share of the cost of their health insurance plan;
(g) Paid time off equivalent;
(h) Child care tuition discount;
(i) Student loan repayment;
(j) Telemedicine coverage; or
(k) Payment towards a physical, first-aid certification, CPR certification, background check, or other credential required for the child care position.
IV. Eligibility for a grant from the child care workforce fund shall be as follows:
(a) Eligible child care programs shall be:
(1) Child care programs operating in New Hampshire with an active child care license or that are license-exempt and enrolled in the department of health and human services child care scholarship program. These programs shall include those who serve children from birth through age 12 and are also referred to as center-based, family-based, early childhood education, early learning, outside of school time, before and after school, and summer camp programs; and
(2) Non-profit and privately-owned center-based and family-based child care programs.
(b) If grant application requests exceed available funding, preference shall be given to eligible child care programs which are:
(1) Enrolled in New Hampshire's child care scholarship program; and
(2) Connected to the work of their related early childhood regional network, as determined by the department.
(c) Child care programs enrolled in or in preparation to enroll in the granite steps for quality system are eligible for the additional benefits described in this section in recognition of their extra effort and commitment to continuous quality improvement.
VI. The department of health and human services shall adopt rules under RSA 541-A relative to the duties of the entity designated in paragraph II of this section.
VII. The department of health and human services shall incorporate in its biennial appropriation request pursuant to RSA 9:4 an amount necessary to fully fund the child care workforce fund grant program established in this section.
126-A:17-c Regional Fingerprinting Support Program Established.
I. There is hereby established in the state treasury a regional fingerprinting support program workforce fund to support child care employers and staff during the pendency of background checks as outlined in the state’s plan for strengthening child care. The fund shall be nonlapsing and continually appropriated to the department of health and human services for the purposes of this section. The state treasurer shall invest the moneys deposited in the fund as provided by law. Interest earned on moneys deposited in the fund shall be deposited into the fund.
II. The department of health and human services shall administer grants to eligible child care employers.
III. The department of health and human services shall develop the grant program terms and implement the regional fingerprinting support program by August 31, 2023.
126-A:17-d Childhood Mental Health Consultations. The department shall develop and maintain a publicly available network of trauma-informed early childhood mental health consultants and ensure ongoing training and consultation of the early childhood mental health consultants. Early childhood mental health consultations shall:
I. Be provided by qualified mental health professionals who possess a masters or doctoral-level degree in the mental health field and who demonstrate evidence of specialized training and experience in infant and early childhood mental health;
II. Be offered, if necessary to children across settings and regardless of changes to setting and placement;
III. Consider making any and all available referrals, included but not limited to the care management entities established under RSA 135-F, early childhood mental health services, and early supports and services.
IV. Include but will not be limited to the following services:
(a) Conducting observation and assessment of a child and their caregivers across settings, including the use of valid and reliable measures of:
(1) Trauma exposure and symptoms,
(2) Emotional and behavioral development and problems, and
(3) The quality of caregiving/child caregiver relationship;
(b) Consulting with caregivers, teachers, directors, administrators, and other providers about the meaning of challenging behaviors and how to manage them;
(c) Strengthening caregiver and professional capacity to successfully handle challenging behaviors though reflective questioning, developmental guidance, modeling, and role playing; or
(d) Offering training in young child socio-emotional development, emotional and behavioral regulation, and trauma exposure to caregivers and professionals.
V. Be provided to any child birth to age 6 who is placed or at risk of being placed in foster care within 30 days of their placement in care.
5 New Subparagraphs; Application of Receipts; Child Care Workforce Fund. Amend RSA 6:12, I(b) by inserting after subparagraph (387) the following new subparagraphs:
(388) Moneys deposited in the child care workforce fund as established in RSA 126-A:17-b, I.
(389) Moneys deposited in the regional fingerprinting support fund established in RSA 126-A:17-c.
I. The sum of $14 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2024 and the sum of $1 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2025 are hereby appropriated to the department of health and human services for the purpose of the administration, management, and implementation of child care workforce fund established in RSA 126-A:17-b. The governor shall determine if any discretionary funds appropriated in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Public Law 117-2, or any other federal funds, can be used for this purpose, and the department shall use such federal funds for this purpose. Any remainder shall be appropriated from the general fund. Funds appropriated under this paragraph shall be nonlapsing. The governor is authorized to draw a warrant for the general fund portion of such sum from any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
II. The sum of $250,000 fiscal year ending June 30, 2024, and $250,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2025 are hereby appropriated to the department of health and human services for the purpose of the administration, management, and implementation of regional fingerprinting support fund established in RSA 126-A:17-c. The governor shall determine if any discretionary funds appropriated in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Public Law 117-2, or any other federal funds, can be used for this purpose, and the department shall use such federal funds for this purpose. Any remainder shall be appropriated from the general fund. Funds appropriated under this paragraph shall be nonlapsing. The governor is authorized to draw a warrant for the general fund portion of such sum from any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
III. The sum of $500,000 for fiscal year ending June 30, 2024, and $500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2025, are hereby appropriated to the department of health and human services to support existing programs to provide trauma-informed early childhood mental health consultation to caregivers at home and in child care settings to support young children with exposure to adverse childhood experiences and who experience emotional and behavioral challenges. Of this amount, the governor shall determine if any remaining discretionary funds appropriated in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Public Law 117-2 or any other federal funds can be used for this purpose and any remainder shall be general funds. Funds appropriated under this paragraph shall be nonlapsing. The governor is authorized to draw a warrant for the general fund share of said sum out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
IV.(a) The sum of $1,250,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2024, and the sum of $1,250,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2025, are hereby appropriated to the community college system of New Hampshire for the purpose of providing scholarships and program support for early childhood education programs. Such sums shall be nonlapsing, continually appropriated, and shall be in addition to any other amounts appropriated to the community college system of New Hampshire. Not more than 5 percent of the appropriated funds shall be used for program administration, with the remainder being distributed as scholarships, program support, and student support to increase the number of early childhood education graduates from the community college system. The governor is authorized to draw a warrant for said sums out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
(b) The chancellor of the community college system shall submit a report end the end of each fiscal year of the biennium ending June 30, 2025 to the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the president of the senate on the use of appropriated funds, enrollment data, and graduation data for early childhood education programs, no later than July 1, 2024 and July 1, 2025.
I. Section 6 of this act shall take effect July 1, 2023.
II. The remainder of this act shall take effect upon its passage.
SB 237-FN- FISCAL NOTE
Due to time constraints, the Office of Legislative Budget Assistant is unable to provide a fiscal note for this bill, as introduced, at this time. When completed, the fiscal note will be forwarded to the Senate Clerk's Office.
Department of Health and Human Services