ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Committee hears testimony for bill related to state's Child Care Assistance Program

The bill seeks to simplify the application process, increase child care assistance payment, increase awareness of the program and eliminate the co-pay if a family’s income doesn’t exceed 41% of the state median income

North Dakota Capitol
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

BISMARCK – The Senate Human Services Committee heard testimony this week in favor of a bill that will amend the North Dakota Century Code related to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.

Sen. Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, a sponsor of Senate Bill 2190, said the bill looks to simplify the application process for the Child Care Assistance Program, increase the child care assistance payment, increase awareness and enrollment into the program and eliminate the co-pay if a family’s income doesn’t exceed 41% of the state median income for a family of the same size.

Hogan said many people who are eligible to apply for the program don’t realize it. The bill would require that the form applicants fill out would provide for streamlined application coordinated with the other services including the supplemental nutrition assistance program and medical assistance.

“For example if a family comes in and applies for food stamps, are they informed of child care assistance?” Hogan asked. “So they might come looking for one thing and actually be eligible and need another.”

Jessica Thomasson, director of the Human Services Division with the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, testified in favor saying the department has worked on streamlining the applications for services people may want to be considered for. Additional work has been done to launch a newly modernized online self-service portal to ensure the application process is easier for applicants.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We think that’s another element that will really help applicants feel that this is as streamlined and simple as we can make it,” Thomasson said.

For the requirement of advertising the Child Care Assistance Program, Thomasson said the department is projecting to launch a strategically targeted, digital-focused outreach campaign. Utilizing online live chat features and building resources into the system will also help to address the requirement of application assistance.

READ MORE NORTH DAKOTA NEWS
Seven other machines are to be installed in Benson, Burke, McHenry, Sargent, Sioux, Slope and Traill counties, all identified as short on library resources.

A proposed amendment to the bill presented by Thomasson would require the Child Care Assistance Program to use information from a market study and cost study to inform its adjustment to the payment schedule, resulting in an increase of no more than 10% each year of the allowable maximum monthly benefits.

Thomasson said the rate schedule is currently based on a market study conducted every fall, which survey's all the child care providers in the state to determine what the market for child care is.

“That is different than what is the cost of the providers providing care,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t charge what it costs them because they know families can’t afford it. Every state acknowledges there is a gap between what it actually costs the child care provider to provide care, and what families can bear.”

Robin Nelson, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Red River Valley in Fargo, a nonprofit organization that operates 12 licensed child care sites, also testified in favor of the bill.

Nelson said an important factor in the bill would help families that earn too much to qualify for a certain percentage of assistance, referred to in the bill as a sliding fee, but are unable to pay for that gap due to escalating child care costs.

In 2022, North Dakota increased the income level for the program to 85% of the state's median income in order for more working families to get help with child care costs. Most families pay a co-payment, which is determined on a sliding fee scale, to go toward the cost of care.

ADVERTISEMENT

Part of the proposal would be to eliminate the co-pay fee if a family’s income doesn’t exceed 41% of the state median income for a family of the same size.

Child care needs have been addressed as a priority in the state as in September Gov. Doug Burgum announced a framework for legislation to address the availability, affordability and quality of child care services.

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
What To Read Next
Several bills relating to transgender youth and adults were heard Tuesday, Jan. 24, before the House Human Services Committee.
She will be on electronic home monitoring for 300 days and on supervised probation until 2026.
Members Only
Five law enforcement officers were injured and another was traumatized by the horrors of the 1983 Medina shootout. Surviving officers and family members share their pain.
A $5,000 dollar reward is being offered for information that helps the investigation.