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Kelly Ayotte Votes Against New Hampshire’s Best Interests In Budget

Senator Kelly Ayotte 2 (Gage Skidmore)

Senator Kelly Ayotte at CPAC in 2013 (Image by Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

As the Senate wrapped up a slew of budget amendment votes Kelly Ayotte’s priorities were on full display, and now she has to begin the difficult work of trying to explain her indefensible votes to her constituents back home.

Below is just a sampling of where Kelly Ayotte voted against New Hampshire’s best interests:

  • Voted against an amendment to prevent companies from getting tax benefits for shipping jobs overseas. Over 106,000 jobs in New Hampshire are at risk of being outsourced
  • Opposed an amendment to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women more tools to fight pay discrimination.
  • Voted against measures to protect Social Security against privatization and benefit cuts and prevent Medicare from being turned into a voucher program
  • Voted against an amendment that would let young people refinance their student loans, which would help 129,000 borrowers in New Hampshire, and against restoring cuts to the Pell Grant program
  • Opposed a measure to provide two free years of community college by raising revenue through requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes

Kelly Ayotte’s priorities are clear, and New Hampshire students, seniors families and workers don’t make the list.

“If anyone wasn’t clear about how extreme Kelly Ayotte truly is, they don’t need to look any further than her votes on this budget against New Hampshire students, seniors, families and workers,” said Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary. “New Hampshire voters deserve better than Kelly Ayotte’s refusal to stand up for their best interests and they’ll hold her accountable in 2016.”

These are not the priorities of New Hampshire working families.  These are the priorities of the rich, elite 1% who want to take more from the hard working middle class and refuse to pay their fair share.

“From voting to protect tax benefits for companies that outsource jobs to opposing a measure that would let young people refinance their student loans, Kelly Ayotte proved once again that her focus in Washington is looking out for her special interest allies and not the best interests of New Hampshire,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

This budget will not help Granite State families, it will only hurt them.  Slashing social programs that low income families rely on, reducing benefits to seniors who are already struggling to pay their bills on a fixed income, and gives more tax breaks to wealthy corporations who skirt paying their fair share in taxes.

It is obvious that Senator Ayotte is more interested in following her out of touch party leadership than doing what is right for New Hampshire families.  She is also setting herself up nicely for a potential GOP Vice President nomination, building a hefty war chest and voting right down party lines.

Granite State Rumblings: Congress Reauthorizes Child Care Block Grants And That Is Good News

Child Care Facility (EAGLE102_Net CC FLIKR)

YMCA child care room (EAGLE102_Net CC FLIKR)

Here is some important news from our friends at Zero to Three and the National Women’s Law Center.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Senate and House have reached an agreement to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary federal program that provides funds for child care subsidies for low-income working families and to improve child care quality.

The House voted Monday to pass the legislation and the Senate will vote on the bill before Congress goes into recess on Sept. 23.

(Read the joint statement of the bipartisan group from the House and Senate who came together to forge this legislation here.)

The bipartisan bill promises to:

  • Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings;
  • Make it easier for families to get and keep the child care assistance they need;
  • Enable children to have more stable child care; and
  • Strengthen the overall quality of child care.

Most notably for infant-toddler advocates, the agreement would create a 3% set-aside of funds to improve the quality of infant-toddler care. These funds will increase states’ capacity to invest in helping programs reach a high level of quality as well as specialized training and support for infant-toddler providers.

High-quality child care is linked to the success of children and their parents. Child care provides early learning opportunities to children and enables women to work so they can support their families. With significantly increased funding, this bill can make a critical difference.

While this agreement is an important step toward the reauthorization of CCDBG, the Senate must now vote to approve the compromise bill and get this to the finish line. Phone calls to your Senators are especially needed this week.
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And this from our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Our new report provides context for the official poverty and income figures for 2013, which the Census Bureau will release on Tuesday, September 16th.

Here are the highlights:

  1. As in other recent recoveries, poverty has been slow to decline.  Over time, poverty rates tend to move roughly in tandem with economic indicators, which generally improved slightly in 2013.  Thus, the poverty rate — which jumped from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010 and remained essentially unchanged at 15.0 percent in 2011 and 2012 — may start to improve in 2013 as well, although the improvement might not be statistically significant .A return to pre-recession poverty levels is unlikely soon.  To replace the millions of jobs lost in the Great Recession anytime soon and keep up with population growth, the economy must create jobs faster than it has to date.  Although the economic recovery (which officially began in June 2009) is not uniquely disappointing in this regard, it is still problematic — and because the economic downturn was so deep, there is much more ground to make up.  Recoveries in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s featured quicker reductions in poverty.
  2. Austerity policies likely hampered progress against poverty in 2013.  The economy almost certainly would have improved more in 2013 had austerity policies not reduced the government’s contribution to the economy.  These included the “sequestration” spending cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act and first implemented in 2013 and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which reduced most workers’ take-home pay by 2 percent of earnings.
  3. Unequal wage growth also slowed progress.  Between 2009 and 2013, inflation-adjusted hourly wages rose by 1 percent for workers at the 95th percentile (workers whose wage levels exceed those of 95 percent of all workers but are less than the remaining 5 percent), but fell by about 4 to 6 percent for workers in the bottom 60 percent of the wage scale, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  4. Income inequality tied a record-high level in 2012.  The income gap between rich and poor as measured by the Gini index — the Census Bureau’s main summary indicator of inequality in pre-tax cash income — tied a record in 2012, with the data going back to 1967.  Other inequality measures also stood at or near record levels in 2012.
  5. Most poverty figures released on Tuesday won’t reflect non-cash benefits.  The Census figures will focus on the official poverty statistics, which are based on pre-tax cash income and omit support such as food assistance and rental subsidies as well as tax-based assistance such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  An alternative Census Bureau poverty measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), includes these types of assistance, and experts generally consider it a more reliable tool for measuring changes in poverty over time as well as the safety net’s impact on poverty.  Unfortunately, Census will not release SPM figures for 2013 until later this year.  However, Census will release a table on Tuesday providing data on the poverty-reducing effects of certain programs, including SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the EITC.

Granite State Rumblings: Even Paul Ryan Sees We Must Do Something About Poverty

Last week Representative Paul Ryan unveiled his plan to fight poverty in America. He calls it “Expanding Opportunity in America”. In this plan States would have the option of combining up to 11 safety net programs to pilot what he calls new approaches to case management and services delivery.

Well, not all states, as Chairman Ryan writes in his plan, “….this proposal would create a new pilot project in a select number of states. In participating states, the federal government would consolidate a number of means-tested programs into a new Opportunity Grant (OG) program. The largest contributions would come from SNAP, TANF, child-care (CCDBG), and housing-assistance programs and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law”.  (page 14)

In other words this plan would consolidate the programs into a single block grant for states. Block grants tend to reduce the efficiency of the program over time, as we have witnessed with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF). This program was block granted in 1996 as part of welfare reform and has never seen an increase in funding. In fact, it has lost more than 30% of its value when adjusted for inflation.

Block grant programs cannot respond to economic downturns that result in increased needs. As noted by Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas in a July 24th blog post, “this was apparent during the Great Recession. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, proved incredibly responsive to the economic downturn, with enrollment increasing from about 20 million individuals in 2007 to more than 44 million in 2011, the number of families that TANF helped barely budged and actually declined in some states despite the tremendous increase in poverty and hardship. Yet Rep. Ryan’s plan includes SNAP—one of our strongest countercyclical and anti-poverty programs—as a candidate for consolidation. While he claims that ultimately a countercyclical element could be built into the block grant, he acknowledges that in the pilot stage it would not be included, making the state pilots looks more like TANF. This type of reform does not build on what works”.

The plan also calls for those who receive assistance to work with state agencies or community organizations to develop a life plan – “…a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty”. That sounds great, a roadmap out of poverty. But, this roadmap comes with a timeline for meeting benchmarks written into the life plan, and sanctions if you miss that benchmark, as well as a time limit for remaining on assistance.

Haven’t we been down this road before in welfare reform too?

Like the current time limit for those in today’s TANF program, what happens to those who have not yet reached financial independence in the required amount of time because their earnings from employment do not raise them out of poverty?

Contrary to Representative Ryan’s assertion that “the biggest snag in the safety net is that it discourages work,” many individuals living in poverty are employed. There is no plan to raise the minimum wage in this proposal. This is unfortunate given that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour by mid-2016, it would immediately lift about 900,000 workers out of poverty.

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes, “While some other elements of the Ryan poverty plan deserve serious consideration, such as those relating to the Earned Income Tax Credit and criminal justice reform, his “Opportunity Grant” would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised”.

We agree. However, Representative Ryan has opened the door to having a national discussion about poverty. We must not allow that door to close.

GROWING UP GRANITE

From our friends at NH Kids Count:

New Hampshire Drops in National Child Well-Being Ranking from #1 to #4

Demographic, social and economic changes combined with major policy developments have affected the lives of children in both positive and negative ways since 1990, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th edition of its annual Kids Count Data Book.  New Hampshire, which has been ranked first in the nation in overall child well-being for more than ten years, fell in ranking this year, moving from first to fourth behind Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

Mimicking national gains, New Hampshire saw measurable improvements in education, health and safety.  More children are attending preschool, the number of children without health insurance declined and the number of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs also decreased.

Despite these positive advancements, negative trends in economic well-being continue to significantly impact the vitality of New Hampshire’s children and families. New Hampshire’s child poverty rate continues to rise more than the national average, and surged from 9 percent to 16 percent between 2005 and 2012.  The number of New Hampshire children whose parents lack secure employment increased by  24 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. And, between 2005 and 2012,New Hampshire saw an increase in the number of children in single parent families, from 24 percent to 30 percent (80,000 children); a 25 percent change.

In addition, the high cost of housing continues to affect 39 percent of NH children and their families.

While New Hampshire fell in ranking, it is still within the top five states nationally.

Granite State Rumblings: Relief For Working Families With Child Care Costs

Children in preschool (Flickr US Army)

Image by US ARMY (flickr)

There is a lot happening in the world of Early Care and Education and it couldn’t come at a better time. With the economy picking up, job creation growing, unemployment holding steady (although still high), and school letting out for the summer, more parents are finding themselves in need of quality child care. And it isn’t always easy to find if you happen to have an infant or toddler needing care and are a low-income family in need of care.

High-quality infant and toddler care is quite often extremely difficult to find and too costly for parents on a tight budget. Yet we know that the early years are critical to young children’s development and future success.

From our friends at the National Women’s Law Center, here is a look at some of the new and proposed initiatives that would help address the gaps in the cost and availability of high-quality infant and toddler care.

Reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant

The Senate has passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (S. 1086), which is designed to renew and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which was established in 1990 and last reauthorized in 1996. The legislation aims to improve the health and safety of care and the accessibility of child care assistance. This could benefit children across a broad age range, but infants and toddlers in particular, since safe, stable, affordable care is so important for children in their earliest years. In addition, the legislation includes several provisions specifically targeted toward infants and toddlers. For example, the legislation:

  • Sets out new requirements for state standards, monitoring, and criminal background checks that are designed to ensure the health and safety of child care.  One requirement specifically focused on infants would mandate pre-service training in safe sleep practices to ensure that providers serving families receiving child care assistance are aware of the dangers of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and take pro-active steps to avoid it.
  • Requires states to describe how they will develop and implement strategies—such as higher payment rates and bonuses to child care providers as well as grants and contracts—to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care for four particular groups of children specified by the bill, one of which is infants and toddlers.
  • Requires states to set aside 3 percent of their CCDBG funding to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. This provision makes permanent and expands a longstanding reservation of funds for infant and toddler care.
  • Specifies allowable activities that states can support with their infant/toddler set-aside funds.  The list of activities includes establishing family child care networks, creating statewide networks of infant and toddler care specialists, establishing or expanding neighborhood-based high-quality comprehensive family and child development centers that can serve as models and resources for other providers, supporting professional development for providers caring for infants and toddlers, developing components of a quality rating and improvement system related to infant and toddler care, and improving parents’ access to information about high-quality infant and toddler care. States are neither limited to these activities nor required to support these activities, but the list may encourage states to adopt these approaches.
  • Requires states to take steps that make it easier for families to retain their eligibility for child care assistance, including by establishing a 12-month eligibility period.  Families would be able to continue to receive assistance during this time period without recertifying, even if their income changes (provided their income does not exceed 85 percent of state median income) or the parents have a temporary change in work status.  This measure helps families maintain their child care assistance and a stable child care arrangement, which can be particularly important for very young children.

Child Care and Development Block Grant Revised Regulations

The Administration for Children and Families has proposed revising the regulations that govern implementation of the Child Care and Development Block Grant. The agency is reviewing comments that were submitted in response to the proposed regulations, and will release final regulations in the coming months. The proposed regulations are intended to ensure the health and safety of child care (through steps such as requiring regular monitoring and more extensive criminal background checks of child care providers), improve the quality of care, and make the child care assistance program more family-friendly. The proposed regulations include a number of changes that would specifically affect infants and toddlers. For example, the regulations:

  • Require that providers serving families receiving assistance complete minimum health and safety pre-service and orientation training in certain areas, including safe sleep practices and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) prevention as well as child development and the stages and milestones of all developmental domains appropriate for the ages of children served.
  • Require that states identify shortages in the supply of high-quality child care, including for specific localities and populations, and describe how they will address these shortages using grants or contracts. The preamble to the regulations notes that there is often a shortage of care for infants and toddlers and that contracts may be useful in addressing the shortage of care for this population, among others.
  • Specify that states may use their quality set-aside funds to establish and implement age-appropriate learning and development guidelines for children of all ages, including infants, toddlers, and school-age children.
  • Require states to set a 12-month redetermination period for child care assistance; families would be able to remain eligible during that time without having to recertify.  The preamble to the regulations notes that this longer eligibility helps enable families to maintain their child care arrangement without disruption, and that this stability and continuity of care is particularly important for infants’ development.

Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants

A new Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Grants initiative received $500 million in the FY 2014 budget.  The President’s budget proposal would provide $1.45 billion for this initiative in FY 2015.  The initiative is intended to increase the availability of high-quality early care and education for infants and toddlers, particularly for working families. New or existing Early Head Start programs will partner with local child care centers and family child care providers serving low-income infants and toddlers.  Funding will be available to help child care programs meet the Early Head Start standards and for training and technical assistance.  Partnership Grants will be available to every state and programs will compete for the funding within each state. Programs are now able to apply for grants and applications are due by 8/20/2014.

Home Visiting

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides grants to states to fund voluntary home visits to vulnerable families.  Families receive support, referrals to community resources, and parenting education to help them in caring for their very young children. Home visiting can help to promote maternal and child health, increase children’s school readiness, prevent child abuse and neglect, improve parenting practices, and strengthen families. The program received $1.5 billion in federal funding for the five-year period from FY 2010 to FY 2014. Congress has extended the program into 2015 at the current funding level of $400 million but must act by the end of March 2015 to continue the program.  The President has proposed to increase funding for the program to $500 million in FY 2015, and to provide $15 billion in mandatory funding over 10 years to extend the program through FY 2024.

Preschool Development Grants

Preschool Development Grants, a new initiative, received $250 million in funding in the FY 2014 budget.  The funding will be awarded competitively to states to build their capacity to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs, including comprehensive services and family engagement, for preschool-age children from families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  States can subgrant funds to local educational agencies and other early learning providers, such as Head Start programs and licensed child care providers, or consortia of providers, for preschool programs. Local educational agencies that receive subgrant funding must collaborate with early learning providers, and early learning providers that receive subgrant funding must collaborate with local educational agencies.  The President has proposed to provide $500 million in additional funding for the grants in FY 2015.

While this grant program does not specifically target infants and toddlers, it provides additional resources for early learning that could help support professional development for early care and education teachers and strengthen the overall quality of early care and education options, including infant and toddler care.  As preschool is expanded, it will be important to monitor the impact on infant and toddler programs and ensure that resources continue to be targeted toward making high-quality infant and toddler care available and affordable.

Strong Start for America’s Children Act

The Strong Start for America’s Children Act, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative George Miller (D-CA), and Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY), would significantly expand access to high-quality preschool for four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through state-federal partnerships. It would also increase access to high-quality infant and toddler care through an optional set-aside and partnerships betweenEarly Head Start and child care.

  • States would be allowed to use up to 15 percent of their funds for high-quality early care and education for infants and toddlers from families with incomes at or below 200 percent of poverty.  States could use the funds for providers serving infants and toddlers that offer full-day, full-year care or otherwise address the needs of working families and that meet high-quality standards.
  • Grants would be provided to Early Head Start agencies to partner with center-based and family child care providers, particularly those that serve children receiving child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and that aim to meet Early Head Start standards.  The grants’ purpose would be to increase the quality and capacity of providers serving children through age three. Priority would be given to applicants that coordinate with other federally and state-funded home visiting, child care, and prekindergarten programs to create a continuum of services from birth to school entry.
  • The legislation expresses support for continuing to provide resources for voluntary home visits by nurses and social workers to at-risk families.

There is no doubt that the type and quality of care children receive both inside and outside of the home has an impact on their learning and development. Child care is prohibitively expensive for the low-income parents who need access to care to be able to work. It can cost more than a year of tuition and fees at a public four-year college, according to a 2013 report from Child Care Aware® of America. These programs are a good start to providing all children with access to high quality early education programs.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Information about child care in New Hampshire is available from Child Care Aware(R) of New Hampshire.

Child Care Aware(R) of New Hampshire is dedicated to helping parents get the information they need so they can make the very best decisions about child care in addition to telling parents what child care options are available in their community. All children deserve safe, quality care and it is our hope to provide you with all of the tools and resources you may need to make the right choice for your family.

There are two kinds of child care in New Hampshire: license exempt and licensed.

License exempt providers can care for three children in addition to their own children at any one time without a license.

Licensed providers are regulated by the Child Care Licensing Unit. There are several different types of licensed providers. For a brief summary of New Hampshire Child Care regulations, Click Here.  This summary includes definitions and descriptions for different types of licensed programs and some information on basic regulations that licensed programs must follow.

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Are young children (birth to age five) on track to succeed when they enter school? How many children have access to high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs? Is the early childhood workforce adequately trained to meet the needs of young children?

According to The Early Childhood Data Collaborative most states cannot answer these basic questions because data on young children are housed in multiple, uncoordinated systems, managed by different state and federal agencies.

Even though research has shown program quality and staff training are linked to educational outcomes for young children, information about programs, ECE professionals, and children themselves are not connected.

Policymakers, program administrators, ECE professionals and parents need timely and accurate data to make informed decisions to help children succeed when they enter school and beyond. Comprehensive and connected data on children, programs, and the workforce are used to track progress over time, pinpoint problems, identify underserved groups, and allocate limited resources. ECE professionals use data about children’s development to inform instruction, and parents rely on information about the characteristics of early childhood programs to select needed services.

In July 2013, the ECDC surveyed 50 states and the District of Columbia to assess state early childhood data systems. The survey, completed by state education, health, and social services staff, focused on these three key aspects of state data systems:

  • Do states have the ability to securely link child-level data across ECE programs and to other state data systems, including K-12, health, and social services?
  • Do states collect developmental screening, assessment, and kindergarten entry data to examine children’s developmental status and service needs?
  • Do states have an ECE data governance structure designated to support the development and use of a coordinated longitudinal ECE data system?

To see the answers to these questions from our state, follow this link. Individual State responses begin on page 26.

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