Pennsylvania’s Early Learning Programs Level-Funded for Remainder of FY 20-21

Advocacy campaigns continue to push on reimbursement policy and federal stabilization fund

HARRISBURG, PA (November 20, 2020) – The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, thank the General Assembly for level funding state investments in high-quality pre-k, child care and evidence-based home visiting services to help Pennsylvania’s working families. ELPA operates three issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home. Reaction statements from these respective campaigns regarding final FY 2020-21 budget follow.

CHILD CARE

“Start Strong PA is grateful to the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration for continuing to level fund child care through the remainder of the FY 20-21. Knowing that our economy depends on working families and working families depend on high-quality child care, access to these services is a necessity in our economic recovery”

“Start Strong PA is resolved to continue to advocate for additional federal funding to stabilize the child care sector and for subsidy policy that bases child care subsidy payment, during this crisis, on pre-pandemic enrollment. The policy recently released by OCDEL clarifies payment in the case of a class or program closure where there is a COVID case or child cannot attend because they test positive.  They have yet however, to make any revision to the policy enacted on September 1st that penalizes providers that suffer the reduction in demand for services associated with COVID compliance or fear of contagion.”

“In a study on COVID-19’s impact on Pennsylvania’s child care sector, Penn State’s Director of Institute of State and Regional Affairs reports an estimated $325 million in new costs and lost revenues for PA providers since the economic shutdown. The PennState study reports that these increased costs and reduced enrollment have put 1,000 more providers at risk of closing”

“Such a contraction of Pennsylvania’s child care sector would jeopardize the healthy development of Pennsylvania’s youngest children and disrupt working families as they navigate the new realities of work and school for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.”

PRE-K

“Level funding for high-quality, publicly funded pre-k shows the legislature’s commitment to preserving the state’s investment in early learning. For nearly a decade, Pennsylvania has expanded access to pre-k every year. During an extraordinary and uncertain budget year, this agreement shows a bipartisan commitment to our youngest learners and working families of Pennsylvania.”

“However, Pennsylvania’s early learning providers have incurred devastating losses over the past 8+ months, while more than 100,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds await access to a publicly funded pre-k classroom. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, these financial losses paired with new expenses and smaller enrollments threaten to collapse the early learning system, at a time when capacity is key to meeting the educational needs of Pennsylvania’s youngest learners. Families of 3- and 4-year-olds seeking high quality pre-k require both education and child care.”

EVIDENCE-BASED HOME VISITING

“Whether it is making sure a newborn is growing appropriately and meeting developmental milestones, that an expectant first-time mother is healthy, or a young child gains early literacy skills, the critical services provided through evidence-based home visiting are more important now than ever, as more and more families face mounting challenges during the pandemic.”

“The Childhood Begins at Home campaign is pleased to see that funding for delivering evidence-based home visiting services was level-funded for the 2020-21 budget. With the closure of the current fiscal year, the six evidence-based home visiting models receiving state funding in Pennsylvania can breathe a collective sigh of relief as payments for services in the current quarter have been delayed since October. Providers and families now have certainty that the much-needed services provided through virtual visits can continue.”

“In addition, the Community Based Family Center line that funds evidence-based home visiting in the state budget did receive a $1 million increase in the final state budget bill. However, this allocation was not to expand services to additional children and families, but instead to preserve federal slots through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) services as a means to offset the loss of federal funding earlier in the year.” 

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“From birth to age 5 early learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. The lack of state resources for early learning creates deep inequity among families at a very early age. Especially during this time of economic uncertainty, we remind lawmakers that these services support working families and that support is an urgent necessity.”

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