CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) -- In recent years, Rhode Island's child care reimbursements for low-income families have been far below federal recommendations, and the state was one of only nine that didn't base its payments on the quality of care a child receives. That's changing with the new state budget.
"We are raising rates based on quality," Gov. Gina Raimondo said following a news conference Monday afternoon. "If you have a higher quality education, higher quality reading programs so our kids are getting a better education, then we're going to pay for that."
Child care facilities will receive a rating of one to five stars; five representing the highest quality of care.
For an infant or toddler in full-time care, the current Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) weekly reimbursement rate is $193.64. Under the new tiered reimbursement system, 1-star schools will receive 198.48, while 5-star schools will receive $257.54.
The increase in payments will add up to about $3.6 million.
The Children's Workshop, which operates 11 schools in Rhode Island, will benefit from the new reimbursement rates. Over the years, like many child care facilities, it has been forced to turn away some CCAP recipients because the reimbursement isn't enough to cover the cost of caring for the child.
Maggie Teller, the president and CEO of the Children's Workshop, says new funding in the state budget for infants, toddlers and preschoolers will dramatically improve child care in Rhode Island.
"It allows us to hire and it retain the best teachers. It allows us to invest in the program, invest in the facility," Teller said. "We know that children who have high quality experiences between 0 and 5 years old have greater outcomes throughout the rest of their lives."
Courtney Hawkins, the director of the R.I. Department of Human Services, said the reimbursement rate increase will also give parents more power to choose where their children receive care.
"This will allow our DHS parents to shop competitively for child care in a way they haven't before," Hawkins said.
The funding isn't as much as some child care advocates were hoping for. Legislation proposed this year attempted to require tiered reimbursements for children up to 12 years old. Hawkins said that will remain a goal in future budgets.
When the issue of tiered reimbursements was originally discussed in the R.I. House Finance Committee, no one testified against it.
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