The Healey-Driscoll Administration has announced significant improvements to Child Care Financial Assistance programs in Massachusetts. Updated regulations and policies will simplify the application process for parents, reduce paperwork for families and early education programs, and better support homeless families, families with disabilities and families facing domestic violence who take advantage of this program. With these changes, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is making it easier for young, working, low-income families to access the subsidies available for child care and “out of school time” education programs.
“One of the top priorities of our administration is making child care more affordable and accessible. These regulation and policy changes will help break down barriers for our low-income families and early education programs, making government services more user friendly and equitable,” said Governor Maura Healey. “We’re proud to take this important step forward that we know will lead to increased labor market participation and economic mobility for families, and support children’s school and life success.”
“In Massachusetts, we are investing in child care so that regardless of zip code or economic background, our youngest learners can access the high-quality education they need to succeed in school and life. Access to affordable child care is also an engine of the state’s economy, enabling families to participate in our workforce,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “I am excited to see the impact these significant changes will bring to our state, making Massachusetts a more affordable place to live, learn and work.”
EEC has been working over the past year and a half with key stakeholders to make these significant child care financial assistance regulation changes. From the outset, EEC took on these regulation changes with the goals of centering the family voice and restructuring the agency’s operations, policies, and procedures to modernize and improve the experience for parents and providers.
Some of the key regulation and policy changes include:
• Improving and simplifying communication with families, such as launching email and texting campaigns to reach them directly and support them throughout the process of accessing child care financial assistance;
• Reducing and eliminating unnecessary and duplicative paperwork and reporting requirements that create an undue burden for parents;
• Updating the provider employment definitions and requirements to reflect the changing nature of work, including more flexibility for hourly wage earners and those working from home;
• Waiving fees for homeless families and easing reporting requirements for individuals with disabilities or those participating in treatment for substance abuse;
• Better aligning with partner agencies like the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and Department of Children and Families (DCF) to streamline processes and reduce administrative burdens for families;
• Incorporating more inclusive language that supports the dignity of receiving child care financial assistance, and is inclusive of LGBTQ+ families and families with disabilities; and
• Shifting policies to be more accessible, meaning they are written in plain language and will eventually be available in up to 14 languages.
“Our administration believes that expanding access to more affordable, high-quality early education and care is the first step to ensuring every Bay State child has access to the education they deserve, regardless of their circumstances or background,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler. “Here in Massachusetts, we don’t just want to get ‘back’ to how things were before the pandemic–the new and updated regulation and policy changes will bring the state’s child care financial assistance program forward. With a focused intentionality on centering parents and simplifying the processes for providers, we are creating the child care financial assistance system that students and families deserve.”
“I am grateful for the significant changes we are making to our child care financial assistance programs in Massachusetts. Through regulations and policy, we are shifting the programs to be easier and more accessible to enable families to work and support their children’s school success. Using technology enhancements and eliminating barriers, we are creating a more modern, flexible and dignified system,” said Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “I want to thank the Early Education and Care Board, our early education and care programs and partners, and sister agencies who have worked collaboratively and intentionally with us to make changes that center families’ experiences and will bring greater equity and inclusion for the children and families participating in our child care financial assistance programs.”
EEC’s willingness to bring together state policy leaders and early education and out of school time providers through ongoing working sessions has demonstrated the agency’s commitment to ensuring an inclusive, equitable and family-friendly subsidy system. For Kids Only Afterschool is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with EEC staff and state-wide colleagues on the future direction of subsidy policies and procedures. We are excited for the upcoming changes and to provide greater access to high quality early education and out of school time programming for children and families across the state,” said Briana Flannery, Deputy Director of For Kids Only Afterschool.
“Horizons has been excited to participate in the collaborative process with the EEC and other child care providers to simplify, modernize and expand access to child care financial assistance. These changes will particularly have a positive impact on child care access and affordability for families experiencing homelessness. The culture shift currently taking place at EEC, creating more family centric solutions which accommodate the reality and complexity of working family’s lives, is a welcome change,” said Kate Barrand, President & CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children.
The state’s Child Care Financial Assistance programs are funded federally through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and by the state level through multiple EEC line items. This year, the Healey-Driscoll administration and the legislature delivered $778 million towards child care financial assistance, an increase of $60 million over FY23. Currently, 58,000 children and their families access child care with the support of state financial assistance. Nearly 4,500 early education and child care centers partner with the Commonwealth to provide care to low-income or subsidized students, which is 56% of the licensed early education and care programs in the state.
“The Board of Early Education and Care was proud to vote to adopt these updated child care financial assistance program regulations. These significantly improved regulations will serve as the foundation for the programs and set the tone for what we know these programs can and will be – equitably supporting families to afford and access high-quality early education and care across the Commonwealth. I am grateful for the Board, the Healey-Driscoll Administration, and our partners efforts and the direction that Massachusetts is moving in,” said Paul Belsito, Chair of the Board of Early Education and Care.
“For some families who rely on child care while they work, finding appropriate, high-quality care can be difficult. I am grateful to EEC for their efforts to support families and eliminating administrative barriers to a service that can make such a difference for children and their parents. By streamlining this process through the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transitional Assistance, we are reducing the burden placed on people to provide information to apply for services for which they are already qualified, expediting their access to the child care they need,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh.