"Investing in our kids, and the systems that care for them, is essential to ensure everyone has an opportunity to make it in Rhode Island," said Raimondo. "Providing quality, affordable child care removes a critical barrier to getting and keeping a job for many of our hardworking families, improves the development of our kids and prepares them for success in the classroom. I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with SEIU to enhance our commitment to high-quality child care and support working families."
"We have taken a big step forward in making it easier for working parents to find quality child care options in their communities that meet their work schedules," said Patrick J. Quinn, SEIU District 1199NE executive vice president. "All workers deserve a living wage and this historic agreement shows that Rhode Island is ready to recognize and live up to the value of the important work of our early educators."
"We are so happy that we have reached an agreement with the State that recognizes our needs as frontline early childhood educators and helps us elevate our profession," said Alexandra Flores, a family child care educator with 15 years of experience in Providence and a member of the SEIU bargaining committee. "By working together in our union, we now have a voice to continue to improve the quality of care and early learning that all children need to have a strong foundation for their future."
According to RI KIDS COUNT data, more than 70 percent of Rhode Island children under the age of six have parents who work, and are in child care at least part time. For many families, access to affordable, quality child care can be a barrier to finding and keeping a job. That barrier had been made worse by reimbursement rates that fell below the market rate.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, the state's Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) served approximately 5,800 families and 9,400 children last month (July, 2015).
Highlights of the agreement include:
• $250,000 investment to establish a jointly-administered training and professional development fund to improve the quality of care and early learning delivered by family child care providers.
• First CCAP reimbursement rate increases since 2008:
o Effective July 1, 2015, a three percent rate increase in addition to a $10 weekly increase for infant care.
o Effective July 1, 2016, step increases of one to four percent depending on a provider's level of educational attainment.
o Improvements in communication between providers and state government to better facilitate the CCAP application process for parents.
In anticipation of a final agreement as well as a rate increase for child care centers, Raimondo requested and the General Assembly agreed to include an additional $2.1 million in FY16 ($1.65 million in state funding and $450,000 in federal funding) for child care, and no additional funding will be required this fiscal year