In this podcast, Jacob Stewart, director of state government relations at the Early Care and Education Consortium, describes what individual states are doing to combat staffing shortages in child care.
Massachusetts, for example, launched a general, statewide workforce bonus for which child care providers are eligible to receive $4,000 per new employee hired and retained for 60 days.
Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania have offered multiple bonuses ranging between $300 and $1,200 per worker.
Other states are offering wage enhancements, internship programs, a refundable tax credit, financial support to obtain credentials that are state required as well as enabling employees to leverage their experience to move up career ladders and more!
These findings are part of a data-packed report his organization recently put out titled "The Child Care Workforce Shortage: Solutions from Around the Country."
As of February 2022, two-thirds of providers reported a staffing shortage that affected their ability to serve families; of those, 52% were forced to serve fewer children while 37% had a longer waiting list, according to the report.
Read the full report here!
Listen as Jacob delves into the findings of this report ... and he describes negotiations that are happening for legislation that could help the child care industry despite the demise of the Build Back Better plan.
Welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by ProCare solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare , preschool daycare after school and other early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full of insights. You can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in.Speaker 2:
Good morning, everyone. Welcome again to the childcare business podcast , uh , as is my custom , um , joined today with a guest that I think is gonna be a lot of fun to talk to. In fact, it's our first like sequel on the podcast, you know, Jacob Stewart with , um, early care and education consortium also known as E C C was with us. I think it was back in January , uh , Jake, and we talked a little bit about, you know, some of the initiatives that your organization's working on and , and the build back better, you know, funding and some of the other things that are flowing into the industry. Um, but as you guys have continued to work , uh , and we've continued to see some of the content you've pushed out, we just thought it would be a great time to reconnect and talk , um, in particular about some of the staffing topics in our industry. So , um, welcome back to the show.Speaker 3:
Thanks for having me back. I had such a good time the first time that I was excited to come back and I'm excited to be the first sequel guest. So thank you for that.Speaker 2:
Yeah. That's big time, man, to be the first to come back a second time , it's kind of like I was telling somebody this has nothing to do with the podcast, but , uh , I recently saw top gun too . Like, so, you know, maybe I'm dating myself here, but the original top gun was from my generation. I think it's only the second movie I've seen in a theater, like in the last three years is really hard for a sequel to top the original, but everybody who had seen it was telling me like, man, it's a good movie. It's actually better than the first one. And I , and I concur, I saw it. It was better than the first one. So I was pleasantly surprised. So super high expectations, no pressure that the sequel here is gonna be better than the first show even. So , um, maybe as a startSpeaker 3:
Pressure atSpeaker 2:
All. <laugh> yeah, no pressure at all. We'll have some fun with it, Jake, just for maybe those who didn't hear the first podcast, just to give a little context around E C , C and your role with the organization. Can you just talk a little bit about what you guys do as an org and then specifically what your focus is?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So E CUC is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that functions similarly to an association in that our members are childcare providers. Um, they are typically multi , uh , state childcare providers and altogether our members operate over 6,000 centers across 48 states. These are centers that serve a variety of families. Um, many are who pay out of pocket for childcare, which we know is becoming increasingly more expensive, but we also have many centers that utilize financial assistance. So they serve families utilizing subsidies or vouchers. They have head start partnerships. They have military partnerships, business partnerships to provide onsite childcare. So , uh , a diverse array of childcare services that they provide. And really our goal is to try to advocate, to help expand access to high quality affordable childcare for, for all families. And , um, of course that includes a lot of federal advocacy and, and that federal funding is incredibly important, but states are the ones that really implement that policy. So my role specifically is to oversee state policy and government affairs and really help educate state policy makers on the decisions they can make that will help providers serve more families.Speaker 2:
Nice. And so your participants or your members, even though it does it doesn't represent every childcare provider nationwide. I think it is a sampling of what every childcare provider has interests in. And so I think your members, the feedback loop, if I understand it correctly, Jake is you've got member organizations nationwide that represent up to 6,000 centers. They come to you and you guys meet and you talk about like, Hey, these are the challenges that we're seeing. This is, this is what we're seeing impact the families in our communities. This is what we're seeing impact our operations. And here's how we think the government could assist or at least be aware of what's happening. And as you guys meet, then you kind of take that information and you're , and you say, Hey, we're gonna go talk to the government entities and organizations that can actually help impact these things. It fair description.Speaker 3:
Yeah. That , that's a great description. And I would just add to that, that what we advocate for is what's good for all providers at the end of the day, because what our members are struggling with is what everyone else is struggling with in the field. And so , um, we really do try to be the voice for providers , um, with, with the goal of trying to serve more families. Um, and we know that there is a big interest and a big push in trying to get childcare more , um, accessible and more affordable. And we are here to try to help hopefully bring some solutions to the table .Speaker 2:
Yeah, it's amazing. I , one of the things that I took away from our last conversation, which just shed some light on this whole conversation for me was, you know, if you , if you take the work that you guys are doing all the way down to an individual family in an individual community, somewhere in the United States, like the subsidy reimbursement that a center receives for that family and the amount they receive and how it's delivered, doesn't just magically happen without any conversation or discussion from groups like yours, both, you know, at the state level, but then at the national level. And so you , you know, even for an individual provider who isn't involved with your organization or familiar with it, the role that you guys play is really significant, cuz it , you can see it in any individual community, any individual center and parents that receive subsidy or even families that are paying private pay and the , the , the factors of cost and so forth to them. Um, there's organizations at the state level and nationally, obviously that are a big part of that. And so that was a big takeaway for me.Speaker 3:
Yeah. And one issue that has plagued this field , well, there's many issues that have plagued this field for a while , but one is that this field really lacked voices that were really chiming into policymakers on , on the right steps to take, to help support providers. Why is that? Well it's because providers are busy and they are operating a business and being a childcare provider is hard work. And so really there really isn't a lot of time then to go and, and meet and connect with policy makers and their staff and educate them on everything that needs to go on. Um, you know, a lot of industries have a lot of lobbying support that helps do exactly that, but this is an industry that really hasn't had that for a long time. And therefore I think over time, it's just become more difficult for providers. And I think over the last few years and, and hopefully moving forward, we , we finally, we're finally starting to see that come forward. Um , E C C is just one of now, you know, several voices that are trying to come to federal and state policy makers . Um, I think we're in a big moment with childcare right now. People are finally recognizing why it's so important. It, you know, unfortunately took a pandemic to finally highlight the, the need for childcare, but this has been something that has been important for families for well before the pandemic as well. Um, but we want to take advantage of this time. And now that we have policy makers finally recognizing that this is important, it's time to take it to the next level and talk about what policy actions need to be done to truly support families, of course, but then providers who are the ones that are working with families and taking care of the children , um, in order to ma maximize the number of children that can be served.Speaker 2:
Yeah, you're right. And it , and I , it's, it's two things I think, you know, it's supporting providers, like you said, in families, but also sustaining these businesses and finding, you know , um , processes and legislation, part of that, and just a process that's going to allow providers to run sustainable businesses and you're right. Like I think one of the other things that from our last conversation that really stuck out to me was you , you know, you're not just a voice for the large national chains or for just, you know, private paid childcare programs. And it's, it's the entire industry home. You know, sometimes we, we see the conversations about how home providers are treated or how center based programs or group programs or publicly funded programs. But it it's really in a lot of ways, all of those different types of childcare programs are aligned and you guys are a voice for all of them in terms of, it's not just one or the other, it's the industry as a whole, which I think is really important.Speaker 3:
Yeah. We run , uh , we run an advocacy call every two weeks. It's called champions of mixed delivery. And it's, it's all about trying to push for a mixed delivery preschool system, which, you know, as a reminder is a system in which parents can navigate, you know, a choice of providers. So that could be a choice of center based providers , uh, public schools, if they wanna , you know, send their child to school for pre , uh , for preschool , um , family home, you know, home based childcare providers, all of it matters. We're looking for a system where , um , we think the healthiest systems are really where parents can navigate all of these options. Um, unfortunately, you know, there are many parts of the country where the system is no options, right. And there , there really is nothing theirs, but we do want to make sure that , um, everybody is having their voice represented when it comes to childcare providers. And we know that that's more than just centers .Speaker 2:
Yeah. And you guys get a collective set of information that allows you to have a really, I think, unique perspective on the industry that you can then take and champion, you know, kind of the overall , um , causes that are going to impact all of us positively. I , I do wanna talk specifically around staffing cuz you know, you guys published recently a , a really interesting article or, or study that I think shed some light on, you know, states that are navigating some of these challenges , uh , well, and what we can learn from those and maybe apply in other states. But I was hoping just to get an update from you before jumping into that, on some of the build back better and just national funding, I think last time we spoke, some of that legislation was still like in Congress and being voted on and the outcomes, are we still in that spot or is there a little bit more clarity on what some of the funding to the industry looks like right now?Speaker 3:
Yeah . So when we spoke last time and I believe the episode came out in January, but we recorded it , um, you know, in mid-December and it was about a week or maybe even just a few days before there was a very crucial announcement from a crucial Senator. So Senator mansion had announced that he was not going to support bill back better as it was written , um, as a review. So the way bill Beck better was written and how it affects , um, childcare and early learning is that there were, there were two sections of the bill. Um, one was a , a section devoted to childcare , um, that was really trying to , um, increase , um, the number of families that would be eligible by increasing the income eligibility , um, up to 250% state median income. And then there was a preschool section that was really trying to provide funding for mixed delivery preschool and Senator mansion ultimately decided he did not want to support this. Um, and of course, because this is the budget reconciliation process and we're in a , we're in a 50, 50 split in the Senate , um, that all but killed , um , the bill in that moment. Um, at the end of December there, following that , um , you know, there were a lot of questions on if bill Beck better was , was going to make you come back. And if so, what it would look like a lot of behind the scenes conversations were , were happening and have been happening for the last six months. And I , we didn't see necessarily a lot of movement legislatively , um, until the last few months last month , uh , Senator Patty Murray, who is the chair of the health education, labor , um, and pensions committee. So that's the Senate committee that would handle the , the childcare and early learning issues. Um, she, and , and Senator Tim Kane , uh , released a proposal , um, basically it's a , it was a rewrite of the childcare and preschool sections , um , compared to what we saw back in December and their hopes by, by rewriting, it was having it be something that was more tenable, especially for Senator mansion and Senator cinema , a lot of the moderate Democrats and , um , by doing so that childcare and preschool would be included in any sort of budget reconciliation package with 50 votes that might, you know, come up over the summer. The, the new bill , uh , changes were overall really great. Uh , so I'll it , a lot of it was dedicated funding for the childcare and development block grant or CCD B G . That is the primary source of federal funding. Uh , 72 billion, I believe over five years , um, is what it was trying to look at, which is a huge increase when we look at , um, you know, what it is currently in addition to that though , um, there's also funding for head start . Um , some other purposes, one of the innovative items that I saw in , in the rewrite had to do with , um, wage supplement grants. So essentially , um, they decided to take great things that we're seeing with the American rescue plan and the stabilization grants that a lot of states are , are dispersing now. And they're trying to capitalize on the success of that. Um, I think fortunately through , um, not only our advocacy, but the advocacy of a lot of providers , um, the concern about wages has been, I think definitely heard by , uh , a lot of members of Congress. And , uh , the concern of course, is that, you know, if there's gonna be an increase in wages , um , for childcare staff, there needs to be federal funding and support to make that happen because a lot of providers just don't have the profit margins to make this happen. This is already a very , um, heavy labor intensive industry. And , uh, there's just not a lot of room in the budgets of childcare providers to get those substantial increases, to compensation that people wanna see. Um, so what these , uh, uh , compensation grants would do is essentially do very function very similarly to the stabilization grants, give the money to the providers first, so that they have that money and are able to spend it on compensation, which we think is a much more sustainable approach to raising compensation in wages. So , um, all this to say that , uh, the bill has been rewritten for the childcare and preschool sections, but we don't know . Um , well , we don't know a lot of things . We don't know if budget reconciliation is gonna happen at all . And if it does happen, we don't know if childcare is going to be included. We have heard a lot, we've been monitoring the conversations and , and speeches from Senator mansion. Um, and there seems to be some back and forth on whether or not items related to what they call the care economy. Um, that includes childcare that also includes other types of care as well , um, would be included Senator mansion. And some others think that those types of items might be better suited for something by person . Um, however, I think the other side of that is, you know, could we get more funding, more childcare funding through the 50 vote , uh , budget reconciliation process , um, you know, the , the answers to these are well above us. <laugh> and , and I think , uh , more negotiations need to happen on Capitol hill. Um , but all this to say, there is a small chance that childcare would be included in budget reconciliation if it were to happen. Um, but it's not necessarily a great chance.Speaker 2:
Well, and I think that, I mean that, I appreciate that update. Actually. That's a nice overview of kind of where things stand still in the conversation still being worked through, you know, at a federal level. But I think one of the things that you guys have clearly stated in all of your studies and findings is look in order for us to keep childcare moving forward and sustained. There has to be long term commitment from the government to, to fund and to , um, you know, stabilize it cause a lot of the C you know, resources that you've mentioned earlier are temporary, right? Like there's money there. It's still being deployed, but it's, it's on a clock and it's gonna run out. I think some of those , um, those streams run into 2023, maybe early 2024. But as of right now, that's kind of the runway we see with, you know, federal funding for the childcare industry. Yeah,Speaker 3:
Yeah. And that stabilization funding, which we know is incredibly important for providers across the country , um , and has , is really helping to prop up a lot of businesses around the country. It does have to be completely liquidated by September of 2023 . And so we have been articulating that as the, the timeline that Congress has to get something across the finish line. And yeah, we we've been educating lawmakers that once that funding gets sort of pulled out from under the rug from providers , um, there's a , there's a big risk to the industry. And so we're hoping for some sort of solution, whether it's through budget reconciliation or something by partisan, which, you know, that's the other thing is that if budget reconciliation doesn't work out for childcare, it doesn't mean that there can't be a solution. We have seen Republicans actually voice their support or increased investments for childcare and recognize that that needs to happen. Um, actually there was , um, recently a letter from five Republican senators and it was led by Senator Burr , who is the ranking member on the help committee. And , uh, they came out for their support of doubling CC D B G within five years. Um, not necessarily the funding, we were hoping to get out of a budget reconciliation bill , but at least they are coming to the table to , um , recognize that there needs to be a solution. And so we are hopeful that at the very least budget reconciliation doesn't work out, that something can be done before the end of this year , um , to ensure that , um , the industry gets the funding that it needs.Speaker 2:
Yeah. And that's a positive sign , at least, at least from talking with you last time and hearing you talk again today, even though it's still a work in progress, seeing some bipartisan support and people reaching across the aisle to both identify Hey childcare. And that in this industry is extremely important to our country and our economy, let's go figure it out. And I , and I think Jake, as part of like the work that you guys are doing, you know, on the , on the national funding, one of the things that has come out of that, and you made reference to it a little bit ago, talking about, you know, staffing comp compensation in the industry that you guys have also been working, you know , in parallel with this, of doing some studies around staffing, the challenges that we're seeing in the industry with staffing right now, and you , you guys just recently released a report , uh , or a study on this. And, and it , you know, I wanna talk specifically about that because it , it really caught our attention around some of the findings that you guys had where , you know , I think 52% of providers , um , over the last couple of years were forced to serve fewer children because of staffing shortages and , and 37% of providers that you guys work work with or surveyed had a longer than normal waiting list because it just couldn't enroll families. Can you just talk a little bit about this study and what the Genesis of the study was, how you guys approached the study and then maybe we'll get into some of the findings. I , there was, I think about four or five takeaways that I made note of about things you guys are seeing certain states do that are proving successful, but let's start with the study itself. How did you guys start the study? What did the mechanics look like to kind of pull this information together?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So one thing that I was hearing in a lot from our members was about the , the staffing crisis in childcare . And, you know, there's a , there's a staffing shortage in a number of industries and we're hearing about it on the news. Um, but childcare is experiencing it , um, probably worse than most. Um, a lot of this is because it , it was, there was already high turnover even before the pandemic. This is a , a field where , um , compensation is, is low and , um, that, and it's a very demanding job. And , you know, between a mix of those things, it was leading to high turnover and then the pandemic happens. And , um, there have been a number of , um, early childhood professionals that may have retired or have chosen to go work elsewhere to make more money , um, which, you know, you can make a lot more money doing a lot of other jobs than being in childcare. And so , uh, but I think what , what was really concerning of course is that now , um , this was actually inhibiting the function of programs and there are entire classrooms that are being not utilized and are essentially closed because there is not a teacher or a , a staff person for them to hire. And so , um, I think with this report, our, our approach was really two things that we wanted to do. One is we know that states , uh, there are many states around the country who are at least attempting to , um , alleviate the staffing shortage with a number of innovative policy solutions. And, and we know that one thing that states need right now are ideas. Uh, what , what are other states are doing? What , uh , what's working well, what's not working well. And so part of this was just wanting to compile some of those ideas into one resource to share with state policy makers about these ideas that are happening around the country. I think the other piece of this report, though, that is really, really crucial , uh , for policymakers, especially to understand is that the workforce issue is not necessarily caused by just one thing. Um, but it is actually a multi-pronged issue that's gonna require a multi-pronged solution compensation absolutely is, is probably one of the biggest drivers of the shortage, but we also know that there are a number of other topics and categories that need to be addressed. And that compensation alone is not necessarily going to get us , um, to, to where we wanna be in terms of hiring. So we tried to weave together the , the narrative of this , uh , workforce shortage, which of course includes compensation, but it also includes educational support and career development. Um, it includes hiring processes. I think , uh , for me, one of the things that, that really <laugh> bother me the most when it comes to , uh , the , the staffing crisis is that when they, when providers do find someone that they can hire , um, that person sometimes , uh , is unable to work for one month, two month , two months, sometimes even longer, all because they can't get their background check back in time from the state , something that's completely outta their control. I mean, if, if that were me, if I were applying for a job that, that wasn't paying that much. And then on top of that, I couldn't even start the job for another two to three months or, you know, and sometimes the backlogs on those background checks can be even longer. I'm I am going to find another job. I need to support myself somehow during that time. And if I'm unable to work, that's a huge barrier right there. Um, subsidy policy as well. We know that subsidy reimbursal rates are incredibly low. So we really tried to tie all of this into a single narrative to really , um , educate states that there are a number of , uh , solutions that they need to be thinking about in order to help alleviate this problem.Speaker 2:
Yeah. And those, and you hit the, kind of the, the points that I pulled out of the study. When I read through it, there was, you know, about five different points. And I wanted to see if you could share, like, just from your findings, some of the states or things that you're seeing in terms of ideas that, that have some traction and have some momentum to actually help in those areas. So the , the first one you've mentioned it a few times, which is, I , I think probably the most obvious one is the compensation component. You know, we're losing quality, you know , uh , professionals in our industry, and we're not recruiting new professionals in some ways, because of the compensation is just not competitive across, you know, other industries. Can you talk about like, are there some states that have found some ways to overcome that hurdle and any examples you can give that you guys are finding like, Hey, that's a nice model. That's on the right track.Speaker 3:
Yeah . So through, and , and I'll start off by saying a lot of this was done through the , um , APA funding, the American rescue plan act funding and , and the other stabilization funding that has been given to states since the pandemic. So we always say that because as we discussed earlier, you know, this is temporary funding. And if, if we're really looking for long-term solutions, then the federal government is gonna need to step up to make sure that funding continues. Um, but a lot of states have been looking into ways to , uh , compensate the workforce without necessarily making it a mandate , um, from providers. And by doing that , um, or many of these solutions have involved some sort of bonus pay or compensation grants that states are offering. So a number of states have done this. Um, I think, you know, one of the earlier states we've we saw do this was Georgia. Um, I think was one of the first ones and they offered , uh , what they called these power payments for the workforce. Um, it was basically a $1,000 bonus. Um, and actually since then, Georgia has now offered multiple of these bonuses. Um, that has been really helpful to just again , um, having that additional , um, salary add on which not only will help recruit more staff, but at least retain staff. If they know that there's a bonus, that's gonna be coming down the pipe that that's , that's an incentive perhaps for, for staff to say , um , since then we've seen a number of other states also step up , um, a lot of like $1,000 bonuses, similar to Georgia. Some states have provided even more than that. So , um , Alabama , um , made a commitment to do eight quarterly payments of $1,500 for full time staff . So, you know, added together that something like $12,000, you know, increase to their salary over a period of two years. And I think by making it quarterly, again, it really helps with that retention because then the worker knows that, you know, at the, at some point in the quarter, and then the next quarter in the next quarter, they'll get that bonus for , for sticking around longer, which is really helpful for programs. Um, I think probably the biggest announcement we've heard recently came outta Washington DC . Um , and they are gonna be sending 10 to $14,000 bonus checks to full-time staff. Um , they're also doing bonus checks , uh , for part-time staff for , uh , five to $7,000. Um, so it's really great that they're recognizing part-time staff as well. Um, but a number of states have done bonus pay initiatives, and we hope that more states do that or really think about how they can , um , offer that. And, and kind of one recommendation I would add to that is anything the state can do to help again with their retention component , um, because these workers definitely deserve bonus pay and then, and then leave a couple months later and , and that's never necessarily helpful. So any , any way that the state could set it up to , um, really help incentivize the worker to stick around and still access those benefits, that would be really helpful. Um, and then some states actually have launched specifically , uh , recruiting grants. So , um, states like , uh , Iowa and New Jersey have a recruitment and retention bonus. So that means , um, if this is a new hire, they can , they get an extra thousand dollars , um , for being a new hire. So we think that's a really good idea of helping to attract new talent as well.Speaker 2:
Have the states to your, to your knowledge, Jake have, have the states made it easy for those grants and those bonus payments and those , um, you know, subsidies to be easily accessible. Like, do they get paid directly to the staff at the centers or do they flow through the provider and then get handed? And, and I guess in your experience, is there a best practice or a preference, or as long as the money's there, it's good either way.Speaker 3:
So the answer is both, we've seen states have it directly paid to the provider from the state or to the employee, I should say, from the state. Um, and , uh , the provider may need to give some information or, you know, might need to, you know , still do things on their end. Um , but then there's also been weight , uh, bonuses that have gone through the provider . And then the provider will, you know, has to maybe sign an atta station or , or some sort of agreement. And then , um , they have some leeway on, on how, and when that money gets spent , um, you know, we would definitely be more supportive of that approach simply because each business is sort of trying out their own solution to help recruit and retain staff. And I think sort of whatever you can do to give businesses that flexibility, or make sure that there's no duplication of efforts or, you know, would , would always be helpful, but that said any, any of this is helpful if it goes directly to the employee, that is, that is fine too, because at the end of the day, just making sure that something is happening to help , um , incentivize people to stay or, or come into the field is really the ultimate goal. But , um, I think I just, I'm always the type of person that you wanna avoid duplication and, and wanna make things as efficient as possible. And I think , um, you know, there's ways to have it run through the provider and then the provider can show on the back ends that , um, they have, you know, done the right steps that the state wants them to take . Um , but they at least have flexibility in, in getting thereSpeaker 2:
In how they do that. And you guys have also found like one of the other, you know, kind of findings from your study was around states that are doing a good job around educational support and career development, because we do hear that a lot as well. And you've mentioned this a few times and I think rightly so compensation is extremely important. Like we need to pay our professionals and quality workers , uh , the right wage, but that's not always everything culture inside of a , the four walls of a childcare program are really important. And , and what the mission that they're on the team that they're a part of, we've heard a lot of providers talk about that, but also just the career tracking and the career pathing. You've seen some states do some interesting things around that. Can you speak to any examples that you guys have found on that area?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so we, and it's a collective, we , uh , need to have a conversation about the fact that this is not only a low pay job, but it's very demanding, not in term , not only in terms of beyond the day, but in the requirements that these , uh , workers have to go through. And , um , in order to, you know, there's pathways that they have to achieve and there's course there's extra coursework there's , um , in some cases they might need to attain a bachelor's degree to get to the next level and, and , and try to, you know, become a lead teacher or, you know, whatever it is they're trying to do. Um, and these are burdens and, and sometimes not only time burdens, but financial burdens, there's an expectation that the childcare worker , um , pays for these in an already low paying job. It, we need to have an honest conversation about that, but at the same time, quality is important. And we do wanna make sure that those that are working with their children and are educating them , um, do have the experience and the knowledge necessary to make sure that this is a , a high quality environment. So what we've, what a number of states have been doing have they've been trying to offer , um, flexibility or alternative pathways to make it more accessible for childcare workers to move up a career ladder. Um, one example , um, is coming out of Massachusetts, or at least they announced it and, and we're looking forward to it. Um, they are hoping to have a , a career pathway that's rooted in experience rather than just in , um , degrees and credentialing, because we know that experience is a , a , a huge factor when it comes to , uh , serving children. And in some cases , um , it , it probably matters even more having that experience. And so, you know, essentially Massachusetts is asking the question, how can we translate that experience , um, into, you know, hours or into coursework , um, in a way that makes sense , uh , that is still good for children, but enables , uh , providers that do have that experience to move up later . Um, we've seen states like , um , Colorado Del Delaware, Oregon, and North Carolina, they're experimenting with internships. So , um, this is sort of a , a way for , uh , workers to start they're on the job . Um, you know, training and experience, and having this being incorporated into an internship that might then lead to a , uh , a child development associate , uh , or CDA as we like to call it in the field. Um, those sorts of , um, uh , initiatives, in addition to scholarships, we've seen some states offer scholarships for associates, bachelors and master's degree because I'm of the opinion that that burden should not be on the worker. And it would be great if, if states could really pick up the tab on that. Um, but, but those sorts of initiatives are incredibly helpful and that really boosts the morale, right? When it it's a big difference when , uh , you, when we're talking about a low paying job, and then you suddenly have to do extra work, so you get low pay , but when the state comes out and says, well, we're gonna pay for this, or, or we're going to offer these flexibilities , um, that, that is a big boost to morale. The , the last thing I'm gonna say on this , um, and something that I hope gets talked about more loan forgiveness. I mean, there's been a number of childcare workers that have already taken out loans to get , um, you know, the , an associates or bachelors or masters . Um, and I think we need to talk about loan forgiveness with our, our childcare workers. I know that , um, that is something that is being explored by a few states right now, this idea for , uh , loan forgiveness. That was , um , it was actually introduced , um , in a , in a Massachusetts bill recently. Uh , we'll see if that gets signed into law and actually implemented, but , um , yeah, I really don't think that childcare workers should be paying out of pocket for , um , doing something that we know is a , uh , public service that is desperately needed.Speaker 2:
Yeah. That's needed for the economy. I , I totally agree with that. And I love what you were saying about what Massachusetts is doing around. Like, I , I don't, it's almost like an apprenticeship program or at least giving you credit for being in the classroom, doing the work and learning, you know, under somebody who's, you know, got the right certifications and can pull you along as opposed to the extra time and financial resource to go to school. And maybe that's always gonna be a part of it, but I, I like the direction that is heading that that resonates to me, like as something that's common sense makes sense. Let's make it easier, great recruiting tool for providers to be able to say, Hey, coming into the industry, you've got a path to progress your career without a huge outlay of additional financial resource on your side or time outside of your already super, you know, intensive job. Uh, so I , I like that you guys also found, I know the subsidy piece is another one of these buckets that you guys have found around the system hasn't been perfect for a long time, but the ability or the need to streamline how subsidy programs work, how it compensates providers, how it properly subsidizes families in need . Can you , can you just talk about that piece and how you see the subsidy component playing into the , the staffing challenges?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so we know that , um, subsidy reimbursement in most states right now is just too low. Um, and, and there's no , there's no other way to say it, it , it , there are states that are reimbursing subsidy , um, at extremely low levels that I, that do one of two things. Um, they're either so low that providers have no incentive to accept families utilizing financial assistance, or , um, for those that do, they're essentially doing so at a loss, or they're unable to , uh , recuperate, you know, the, the money that they need , um, in order to make these larger structural changes such as, you know, better compensation. Um, you know, one example in addition to the low rates, I should say , um, it's also very unstable funding. So a lot of states, I would say the , the vast majority of states are still reimbursing based off of a child's attendance. Um, well , that is really hard because, you know, children don't necessarily come every day . And , uh , that means that it's an unstable source of funding, whereas the provider could, you know, easily just save that slot for a private pay family and still be able to get the money there . Um, but when , you know, tying it back to the workforce, and I think this is an important part for , uh , policy makers to understand, even if the child is not there, the worker still is, and if we want this funding at all, to really help support that worker's , um, you know, salary, then it , then it needs to follow the worker, not necessarily the child's attendance. So one thing we've been pushing for is to , um, start paying on enrollments rather than attendance, make it a more stable funding stream. Not only will you help those providers that accept subsidy to recuperate some of that funding that can go towards investments in their program and staffing. Um, but you also are going to incentivize more providers to potentially accept families on subsidy. You might be giving subsidy families more options as a result of, of doing that. We have seen a lot of states do this , um , temporarily, at least. So California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada , um , have all temporarily, at least paid on enrollment. We have seen some states , um, look into doing this permanently. Um, and there is some legislation in those states. So New Jersey and Massachusetts has legislation to make that , um , a permanent change. I will say this was an issue in New Jersey at the end of last year's session. Um, and actually the governor , uh , veto did the bill, even though it passed , um, uh , pretty much unanimously out of both chambers, but the reason for the veto was the concern about consistent funding . And so this is where we go back to why the federal funding is important, because if states don't have the confidence that there is going to be enough money to make these changes, it's a lot more difficult, but what states can at least do for now is , uh, you know, at least it's fine to make these temporary, you know, we would say temporary changes are better than no changes at all. Some states have thought through this well, so , um, Georgia, I'm gonna mention Georgia again. Um, they made an announcement last year that they are going to increase reimbursement rates by 15% across the board for all categories through , uh , September, 2020 , which is the , uh , last date that they can use that funding. We really encourage states to try to maximize , even if it's gonna be temporary to maximize , um, the, the amount of time , um, that they can, you know, promote a policy for, because that helps on the provider side for providers to plan and then adapt to that policy. So now at the very least in Georgia providers know that they can rely on that for at least two years, which is helpful , um , because that's two years worth of enrollment. That's two years worth of a policy changes at the business level , um, that can at least help align with the state's goals of, of getting more low income families serveSpeaker 2:
Well. And then to your point about tying that to that staffing component, if a , if a provider feels comfortable with that consistent influx of subsidy and an increase in subsidy, or at least the consistency of it, then they're going to be more confident in their hiring practices about being able to go and, you know, increase pay to their existing staff or retention, and also, you know, to up what they're able to offer new staff as well. Um, so I like that. And I, and I think, you know, it's interesting, I don't know, in , in all of the work that you guys have done around that particular topic subsidy, if the conversation between how subsidies work in, in early childhood differ from the public school system, because if I'm not mistaken, I mean, in the public school system that that funding that comes to the school district is not based on a student's attendance, it's based on enrollment, right? And so there's a distinction between how that money flows and how it's monitored.Speaker 3:
Yeah. And in fact, it , I , if a public school's funding was , uh, based on children's attendance, then that public school would absolutely struggle and , and might even close because it's just so inconsistent. Um, and especially when we talk about programs that are serving low income families, you know, there's a lot of data out there to suggest that, you know, for various reasons, low income families are, are likely to have more absences, you know, maybe due to inconsistencies or, or even you think of a parent's work schedule. Right. Yeah. And, you know , low income families often have to juggle work schedules that are , are not nine to five. They're actually very inconsistent and their childcare needs are already very, very different than the typical nine to five schedule. And yet you, you , you have a reimbursement method that is, is acting as if they would be on a regular nine to five day to day . And so , um, that's something that we've been trying to make, you know, educate policy makers on. I will say that , um, I, I don't think a lot of lawmakers understand just how crucial these reimbursement rates are. Um, I don't think people , um, realize childcare functions a lot more similarly to healthcare in some ways, you know, when we talk about reimbursements and copays and, you know, and it's a very regulated industry, much like healthcare is in many ways childcare providers and , and the way that the state works with them is it's very similar to healthcare providers. And , um , you know, the state really needs to think about how they're supporting those childcare providers to carry out these duties, as opposed to just piling more on top of them without offering the support, or at the very least the financial support needed for providers to reach these goals.Speaker 2:
Yeah. And I think, you know, the topic that you, that we're talking about and the conversation we talked about this on last time we had a chance to, to talk, Jake is as hard as the last few years have been. I do think, you know, I was talking about this earlier today with someone around, like, when we go through times of like challenge or pain or adversity, there's there's growth that happens out of that . And I think one of the things that, that I'm hopeful of the silver lining of the last couple of years is the spotlight that's shining on the industry. That's going to allow us to really upgrade the entire framework and foundation of the industry. Because even though there , it was a known challenge, pre 2020, I just don't think it was getting the attention it needed. And there was little cracks like death by a thousand cuts happening, but this just really amplified the impact of the industry and the challenges that you know, are are present right now. And so it's, it's amazing to hear organizations like E C , C out advocating, you know , for providers two last questions. Cause I know we're , um , almost out of time, but for , for your organization, like number one, what's next for you guys? Where is your focus right now? Is there something specifically that you're focused on and number two, like for our audience , um, where, what can they do like as an individual provider, is there any recommendations you can make about tapping into these resources or making their voice heard any, you know, final takeaways for, for providers listening?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So I'll , I'll start off with your first question about what we're focused on. Um, the , the sustainability of all of this is what matters. So federal funding is incredibly important. We want to try to get some sort of federal solution on the table and pass by the end of the year. Because as I mentioned before , um , the sustainability of all of this really is contingent upon dependent funding, but we also want to remind states that they can go ahead and create the , these systems themselves, if they care about it enough. And one state that I think everybody should be watching right now is New Mexico. Um, the , the amount of policy development that we've seen on early childhood alone in the last three or four years from New Mexico has been incredible. I think it's gone from a state that's been very behind on early childhood to potentially a leader , um, in , in the nation for many reasons. You know, they , it , it , the New Mexico started off creating a new department of early childhood that has , um , cabinet level representation in the state. That's already a big game changer . Suddenly you have a singular department that is now focused on early childhood issues and can help tie these completing issues together. And right now there are 14 states that have consolidated , um, the authority of like preschool and childcare into one office or department. We think that needs to happen more throughout the country to really give that, that brain power and attention at the department level to solving a lot of these issues. But then New Mexico has also , um, they just updated their reimbursement rate setting practice. So now they use a cost estimation model for subsidy rates. So instead of just looking at the price that , um, providers are charging and, and coming up with an average like states currently do New Mexico looks at how much it costs to provide high quality care and services. And that includes staffing. And then they reimburse based off of that number. And that has led to a drastic increase, especially for infant and toddler reimbursement rates. On top of that, they, they lifted , um , eligibility for financial assistance to 400% of the federal poverty line . So that's one of the highest in the country now. Um, so a lot of great things coming out of that state. That's not only good for families, but great for providers. This is on top of paying for scholarships for the workforce and the number of other initiatives , um , out there as well. So I just really think everybody should be paying attention to New Mexico providers included and hopefully advocate for that . Oh , one last thing on New Mexico, they are looking into a , um, land grant tax . They're not waiting for the federal government to finally grant them the funding. They are , they are finding an alternative funding source that is from the state that will continue to fund these initiatives for a long time. That's the , that's the type of state leadership that we need in order to fix a lot of the issues that we see in the childcare system.Speaker 2:
Yeah, that's amazing, but it's nice to have a case study. So I'm , I'm glad you brought that forward, that other states can go look at and say, what is working? What is sustainable? And we can go actually pull some best practices from what they're doing. So New Mexico is a place to go look if you're , uh , at a state level, looking for ways to implement some of these things Jake's talking about. Um, and then, yeah, so for providers, Jake with kind of like a , a parting shot, so to speak, what can our audience do, or, or what should they do more than being aware of these things? Is there actual action that they could take to have their voice heard or be a part of the conversation?Speaker 3:
Yes . So , um, I would say, and I think I said this before, but I would say it again, cause I also wanna recognize, I know that childcare providers and business owners, they are incredibly busy at the same time. So I know that they don't necessarily have the , the time to dedicate to all of these things, but there is likely an organization in their state or , um, you know, some type of a consortium in their own state that is paying attention to these issues. So I would say get connected. It is absolutely worth your , uh , time and, you know, even a fee to pay into a childcare association because , um, they are the ones that are advocating for childcare providers at the state level. And, you know, the more providers that join those associations, the more resources the associations have to be able to effectively advocate and, and make sure that they can get those issues , um, clear to policy makers , um, same thing nationally. And, and most of the time you actually may not even have to pay into a national organization. There's a lot of ways to , uh, to get involved. E C C for example, I mentioned the champions and mixed delivery calls. We are giving , um , consistent updates about what's happening at the federal level. We give updates about what different states are doing. We share these resources, we share this information , um, and it's, it's free to join it's for anyone that's interested. They , you know, just reach out to us. You can email us and , and we'll find a way to get you connected. There's a number of other national organizations that are also doing this work that are free to join. Um, but all of this, you know , just paying attention matters, learning what's happening matters because they will also tell you when to share your voice. Um, and by having that sort of guidance and , and by, you know, saying, Hey, we just need you to, you know, pick up the phone and , and call your legislator and, and do this. Um, and, and really spelling out those actions that you can take that is incredibly helpful because , um, you know, there's a time and a place for , um, voices that we need and learning about when those times and places are goes a long waySpeaker 2:
Is really important. And we'll put, you know, for what is worth Jake, we're gonna put your study on staffing in the show notes, we'll make sure and provide contact information for E C C , but just in terms of like somebody who wants to jump on those mixed delivery calls or find out more, can you just really quick give an idea of how, you know, providers could find your organization and, and participate in those?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So , um, and I'll give, also feel free to share my email address in the notes as well. Um , because I , I help run those calls. So you can just , uh, uh , link us directly if you're involved at all with the national childcare association, that's actually who we co-host with. You could probably just follow them on LinkedIn or, or Twitter or some other source, cuz they do promote a link to sign up for those calls. Um, or you can go to our website, ECE consortium.org . And um, we have a contact , um, uh , in information there as well. And you can just reach out and say , you wanna be involved? The calls are , um, uh , every other Wednesday at 3:00 PM Eastern. Um, but you don't have to attend. Uh , we send out the , um , the slides and the notes and we know that a lot of people review those. Um , you know, when they get a chance, since providers are so busy , um, but we do try to , um , make sure to make them accessible. We have a toolkit that, that gives you resources on just what's happening. So, you know, when I was talking about , um, the rewritten childcare and preschool components of build back better, we, we have a summary, you know, that's a part of those calls and it's part of our toolkit. And so , um, yeah, feel free to get involved and , uh , we would love to, to have you as a part of the calls.Speaker 2:
Yeah, that's amazing. I appreciate so ECE consortium, if you're interested any of this content and listening to this episode, like reach out, go check out their website. There's gonna be links to the, the studies that Jake referenced in this, in this , um , episode in our show notes and, and get involved because there's a lot of content, a lot of resource out there and , and um, you know, Jake really appreciate you taking time. Again, I just wanna remind everybody, this is Jake Stewart with the early care and education consortium , um, did not disappoint Jake this content. I think , um, you know, so many of us in the industry who are kind of involved in the day to day operations of the businesses that, you know, we run or a part of , um, maybe aren't aware of all the work that's happening at the federal level that you guys are doing. So really appreciate the time, really appreciate the content and who knows, maybe we will have , um, like episode three at some point in the future. So thanks so much.Speaker 3:
Yeah. I'm looking forward to the trilogy <laugh> and thank you as always. Um , it's always a great conversation.Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app . So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare business tips, tricks and strategies, head over to our resource email@example.com until next time.