Governor Gina M. Raimondo recently signed into law a $9.6 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1st. The budget bill allocates $632.8 million for our Department to continue to be the safety net agency helping more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders annually with food assistance, health insurance, child care vouchers, job training, child support aid and support to veterans, the disabled and the elderly.
Key increases in our spending plan include doubling the amount of senior center support from $400,000 to $800,000, which our Division of Elderly Affairs leadership and community advocates made passionate arguments for at budget hearings. There are more than 178,000 people 65 years of age or older in our State's cities and towns.
"Senior centers help older adults to live well in countless ways," DEA Director Charles Fogarty told the House Finance Committee in late April. "… Senior centers are gateways in the community where adults can manage and monitor their health, socialize with friends, access benefits, learn new skills and, most importantly, have fun."
Another significant addition in our Department's budget was to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers that are currently too low to support high quality care settings. The infant, toddler and preschool rates for center-based child cares sites will now be paid using a tiered rate structure that is tied to the providers' quality rating. The total amount for tiered rates, which had failed to get to the finish line in previous years, is $3.4 million.
"This victory represents a monumental shift in how our state recognizes, and values, quality supports for children during their critical brain development years," said Caitlin Molina, DHS Assistant Director of Child Care. "No parent should have to choose between safe, developmentally appropriate care for their children and working to provide for their family."
The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and finance teams have worked hard over the past few months to prepare for these changes, and providers will be updated with implementation information as we move forward. Below is the link to the table of the full time, weekly tiered rates for centers.
"The entire Department would like to thank the many community partners, child care providers, senior center directors, parents, staff and elected officials who worked hard to get these additions approved," DHS Director Courtney Hawkins said. "We would like to also thank Governor Raimondo for her continued leadership and support for the critical work DHS staff and partners do each day to ensure that all RI families are part of the State's progress."