2023 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 8
Kansas Action for Children
March 3, 2023
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Child Care & Early Education Advocacy Day
On Wednesday, 150 child care and early education professionals, advocates, and families arrived at the Statehouse for Child Care and Early Education Advocacy Day. Participants elevated the needs of children under the age of 5 to lawmakers. Attendees were encouraged to bring their expertise to elected officials and help them understand that child care and early education is brain-building work done by professionals. Through the meetings with lawmakers, professionals highlighted the essential work they are doing and the benefits of investing in early care and education for all Kansans.
While child care providers had conversations around the business aspects of the field, like discussing pay equity and ways the state can support livable wages for the field, a majority of time was spent talking about the challenges families face. The ability to provide in-home support for all families was elevated by home visiting teams, highlighting that many Kansas families do not know about or understand how these important programs work.
As connections were made between participants, lawmakers had the chance to lead story time for the littlest Kansans. Watching the animated faces and expressions of Senators and Representatives as they engaged with kids was a highlight for KAC staff. Legislators participated with enthusiastic energy and compassion for the most vulnerable citizens of the state.
The formal part of the day wrapped up with the final Early Learning Caucus meeting of the 2023 session. With a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, panelists shared home-based child care, community center, parent, and Head Start perspectives with lawmakers as they discussed opportunities and challenges the early learning field faces. A group of 20 elected officials took time to prioritize this session. Everyone left with information to reflect on and, hopefully, the push to put Kansas kids at the front of any decision-making the rest of the session.
KAC would have been unable to facilitate this engaging event without the support of our partners from Kansas Head Start Association, Kansas Parents as Teachers Association, Child Care Providers Coalition of Kansas, Child Care Aware of Kansas, Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, The Family Conservancy, Child Start, First 1,000 Days Kansas, and the Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children. These partners were critical, not only in helping with planning, but also making sure their folks turned out and made the day successful.
Senate Tax Hears Bill to Provide Tax Credit to Child Care Professionals
We presented testimony to the Senate Tax Committee on SB 164, which would provide a $2,000 income tax credit to Kansans who work in licensed child care facilities. Child care is a complex problem that cannot be fixed by one bill. However, SB 164 offers a piece of the solution.
This credit would be a small step in the right direction, working to treat the industry as a profession, not a part-time job. By offering an income tax credit to child care workers, the state is investing in this critical industry. The bill had no opponents, while more than a dozen individuals and organizations, including KAC, supported the bill.
Senators Propose Increasing Child-to-Staff Ratios in Child Care Facilities
The Senate introduced SB 282 on child care ratios and regulations Wednesday afternoon. The Senate Commerce Committee will hear the bill on Wednesday, March 8. If you or your organization would like to submit testimony on this bill, 17 hard copies (along with a completed cover sheet) must be submitted to the committee assistant by 10 a.m. on Tuesday. All other conferee rules can be found here.
This bill proposes to put statewide limits on child care facility training and credential requirements, as well as licensed capacity and child-to-staff ratios into statute. The bill also would allow 14 through 16 year olds on staff to solely supervise children in care. KAC maintains that these requirements and guidelines belong as regulations within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) so that the agency has the flexibility to issue waivers and adapt to the changing landscape of child care in Kansas.
Food Restriction Bills Still Active, Welfare Reform Hears Bill Effectively Criminalizing Homelessness
After passing the House last week, HB 2141, which would require child support cooperation for non-custodial parents as a condition for food assistance eligibility, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare. No hearing has been scheduled, but it is likely to be scheduled at the last minute in the coming weeks.
HB 2140, which would implement additional inflexible work and training requirements for low-income Kansans in their 50s, was referred back to the House Committee on Welfare Reform. We will keep an eye out for any further committee action on this bill.
On Thursday, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2430, which would effectively criminalize being homeless on public land in Kansas. While there was only one proponent and one piece of neutral testimony on the bill, KAC joined 55 other organizations and individuals to oppose this harsh bill. About 25 of those explained their opposition verbally. We hope the Committee does what’s right for every Kansas family and refrains from sending this bill to the full House.
Public Health Emergency Will Trigger KanCare Eligibility Redeterminations
After the flurry of Turnaround action last week, SB 20 (anti-vaccine) and SB 139 (newborn screening) were sent back to the Senate Health Committee. We continue monitoring both bills for any scheduled hearings.
Due to the federal public health emergency ending in the next few months, the KanCare (Medicaid + CHIP) eligibility redetermination process will restart very soon. For households with KanCare renewal dates in April, renewal requests for more information will be mailed by the state during the week of March 13. KanCare members should respond to the mailing from the state as soon as possible, as eligibility reviews will begin on April 1. Members have until the end of April to return the information, but the sooner the information is returned, the better.
A new report from Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families reveals that almost 64% of the KanCare enrollment growth between February 2020 and August 2022 was due to kids enrolling in the program. For some families, it’s been three+ years since they have gone through the renewal process, and some families have never even been through the process! We want to make sure all who remain eligible keep their KanCare coverage.
How can you help? If you know someone, or their child, is a KanCare member, please remind them to update their contact information with the state by going online to kancare.ks.gov and clicking on the chat bubble. Or they may call 1-800-792-4884. Then, in the month(s) ahead, they should watch for mail from the state of Kansas containing renewal information and respond quickly.
You can help us get the word out by sharing content from the state’s communications toolkit. Get regular updates by joining the Medicaid Renewal Helper Network through the Community Care Network of Kansas.
Federal SNAP Changes include Lower Benefit Amounts
For the past three years, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients received emergency allotments (EAs), which allowed every household to receive the maximum benefit amount for their household size to combat the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic. In December, Congress decoupled EAs from the public health emergency and declared that it would end in February 2023. As Kansas households receive their final EA payments in the coming weeks, each SNAP participant will lose an average of $82 a month from their grocery budgets. Learn more here.
What to Expect in Week 9
It will be a busy week, but so far, several committee agendas are “to be determined,” so much of the potential action is up in the air until bill hearings are officially scheduled. A few that we know about and will weigh in on include:
- Submitting opponent testimony on HB 2238 in the Senate Committee on Education on Monday. This bill would prohibit female transgender students from participating in school sports.
- Presenting opponent testimony on SB 282 in the Senate Committee on Commerce on Wednesday. The bill would put into law several child care regulations, as well as greatly increase child-to-staff ratios.