This is the kind of change that young children, working families, early education and care providers, and businesses need. In fact, the entire economy stands to benefit.
In February, Massachusetts put in place a new early education and care fee structure for families who have “subsidized slots” in licensed programs. They had good reason to do so, say local providers.
“Fees were really high for families, and it was boxing a lot of people out,” says Darlene Belliveau, YWCA Central Massachusetts Director of Children’s Services.
Childcare in Massachusetts is among the most expensive in the country, “easily more expensive than in-state tuition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and…about 30 percent more than average rent in the state, according to one estimate,” says the Boston Globe.
Fees are now based only on income that rises above the Federal Poverty Level, with additional sibling discounts. Eligible families pay a specified percentage of program fees and the state pays the remainder.
The new fee structure is expected to reduce parent co-payment amounts for 99% of Massachusetts families, and it’s already paying off.
“One family I’m working with could only afford three days a week under the old fee structure, even though the husband works full time, because they weren’t eligible for subsidies,” says Vanessa Martinez, Assistant Director and Subsidy Administrator of the YWCA Central Massachusetts Early Education & Care Program. “Now, they’re able to enroll their child for all five days of the week and the mother can look for full time work.”
What’s more, their child can enjoy the same high-quality learning and care as their peers—which numerous studies have shown to be a determining factor in k-12 success and career success and health in adulthood.
The new fee structure is also good news for area businesses and the economy, as more parents can enter the workforce.
“Early care and education is absolutely essential to a thriving and equitable workforce and economy,” says Tom Weber, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education and Foundation Fellow, Eastern Bank Foundation. “The revised parent fee structure, as a component of comprehensive system reforms, will help make Massachusetts a global leader in attracting and supporting the success of workers with children, who are vital to the state’s economic recovery and growth.”
Providers, who receive per-child subsidy reimbursements equaling less than the total cost-per-child, are also benefiting from the new fee structure.
“Since more parents can afford to pay their fees, less time is needed to collect those fees,” says Belliveau. “It’s helping us finance our programs and plan ahead to better serve our children and families. Before, I had to slice off 45% [of many parents’ fees] off the top because I knew I would never get it.”
Additionally, young children whose attendance was spotty due to affordability issues, can now receive consistent learning and care. At the YWCA Central Massachusetts, this can mean more than a decade of critical growth and development.
“With two early learning and care facilities, in Worcester and Westborough, plus afterschool and summer camp programs, we can have the same family with us for a good twelve years,” says Belliveau.
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