By Peter Hancock
August 27, 2015

New federal rules will require Kansas to make several changes in its welfare laws and policies if it wants to continue receiving federal child care funding, and one advocacy group says it’s concerned that Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration seems to be showing little interest in the issue.

But officials at the Department for Children and Families say they are well aware of the new requirements and that there is plenty of time left for Kansas to make the necessary changes.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, said her organization will host a stakeholders meeting next week to discuss the changes and their implications for Kansas.

But in a letter this week to DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, Cotsoradis said she was disappointed that the agency had declined to take part, or even to attend.

“On behalf of child care stakeholders, advocates and providers, we strongly urge you to reconsider,” Cotsoradis wrote. “Attending the meeting not only complies with the guidance to seek input from child care stakeholders, but it will connect you to those most directly impacted by policy changes.”

At issue is an estimated $41 million that Kansas stands to receive from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which, among other things, subsidizes child care for low-income parents.

In 2014, Congress passed the first reauthorization of that program since 1996, including a host of new rules that states must comply with in order to be eligible for the funding.

Cotsoradis said she is concerned that parts of the new HOPE Act that Kansas lawmakers passed this year, a law that imposes new restrictions on welfare recipients, may be in conflict with the federal regulations.

In addition, she said, Kansas will need to update a number of regulations dealing with the licensing and qualifications of child care providers.

“This is a very rare opportunity to impact quality and access to child care,” Cotsoradis said.

Sandra Kimmons, director of economic and employment services for DCF, said she doesn’t believe there are any conflicts between the state’s new welfare laws and the new federal regulations.

She also said the agency will host its own stakeholder meeting in the near future to take input on changes to state policies and regulations, and that KAC and all other stakeholder groups will be welcome to attend that meeting.

But Kimmons said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the program, has not yet finalized its own rules.

States are normally expected to submit formal plans for their use of the funds in June of each year. But because of the new federal changes, she said, all states have been granted an extension until March 2016 to submit those plans.

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