24 February 2021 | Economic Security

Hear what organizations across Kansas have to say about a bill supporting kids and families

Kansas Action for Children
Feb. 24, 2021

On Feb. 22, nearly 40 organizations and individuals offered testimony to the House Committee on Children and Seniors in support of House Bill 2371. It eases restrictions so parents and caregivers can put food on the table, enroll their children in child care, get an education, and ultimately regain their financial footing. As our state recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, this bill offers an important path forward.

Here’s what some of those organizations and individuals said. Click on the name of the organization to read their full testimony. (You can see KAC's testimony here.)

Aligned: “We submit testimony in support of HB 2371 because Aligned business leader members understand the importance of a skilled workforce and we are committed to improving programs that support Kansans who wish to work and/or further their education. HB 2371 will allow more Kansans to send their children to quality childcare while they enter the workforce or further their education.”

Association of Kansas Food Banks: "One of every four children in Kansas are food insecure, and many of them could benefit from the food resources provided through the federal SNAP program. But state-imposed requirements currently in place in Kansas are a barrier to that much-needed help."

Barry Downing, President of Northrock, Inc.: “As a businessperson, I have been a longtime advocate of early education. I have seen firsthand the economic effect high-quality childhood education has on our families, businesses and communities, and I believe it offers the best return on investment strategy for our economy. When parents do not have access to affordable, consistent care, we all suffer.”

Child Care Aware of Kansas: “We continuously hear from families and child care providers about their daily struggles to make ends meet while ensuring young children have what they need to grow up safe, healthy, and ready to succeed in school. While we have much work to do to reduce barriers to critical supports like food assistance and child care subsidies for Kansas’ youngest citizens and their families, this bill is a solid step in the right direction, and has our whole-hearted support.”

Dr. Craig A. Correll, Superintendent of Coffeyville Public Schools: “I am a firm believer in the benefits of a high-quality early learning environment. As an educator, my original goal for early childhood education was to level the playing field for students entering Kindergarten. Through my work as superintendent, I now see the role early childhood education also serves for a community.”

Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas: "HB 2371 addresses unnecessary restrictions in situations where a family is actively breaking the cycle of generational poverty. This is no small feat, especially for rural families."

Dawn McNay, Pittsburg: “As the former Mayor and current City Commissioner, I know our city is working hard to move forward and every little positive policy change helps. Please consider this bill as workforce development and an investment in the people of Pittsburg.”

Department of Children and Families: "DCF stands in support of House Bill 2371. HB 2371 would increase access to vital assistance programs for some of the state’s most vulnerable families during a time of great need. Kansas should invest in these families now by removing these barriers and allowing those that really need this assistance to more easily access these programs."

Family Crisis Services, Garden City: “DCF services are vital in the long term success of a victim of abuse. When a victim of abuse is seeking safety, the mandated quest for child support often intensifies the abuse. This is very common because to the abuser, it looks like the victim is the one on this quest. Thus, the continued threats, stalking and abuse continue. This prevents many victims to obtain the unique services DCF can provide.”

Family Resource Center, Pittsburg: “In years past over 60 of our families received child care assistance, today we have fewer then 20 families receiving child care assistance. One of our single moms struggles to pay her bill but would not apply for child care assistance because she would have to check the box on child support recovery and was afraid that something would happen to her child or herself.”

Jenny Ehling, Family Resource Center: "Our goal, as a community, is to send children to school ready to learn and succeed not only in school, but in life in general. Quality early childhood care and education is a key component in helping children and families do just that."

Finney County Economic Development Corporation: “While AVAILABILITY of care is a key component of our planning, we recognize that ACCESSIBILITY of care is equally important. Removing barriers from access to high quality, licensed childcare and early learning programming is an important step toward ensuring we can meet the childcare needs of today’s workforce while simultaneously investing in the workforce of tomorrow by creating learning opportunities for our youngest residents during the time they are most likely to carry the benefits of said education for a lifetime.”

Googols of Learning Child Care Development Center: “In our field many early childhood educators are parents. And like all early childhood educators, they are very poorly paid. So much so, that nationally, roughly half of early childhood educators are on state subsidies themselves. It is a high bar to ask an early childhood educator to pursue higher education to improve the quality of care they provide other people’s children, then fail to pay them a living wage, and also not support them by offering child care assistance so they can attend school.”

Health Forward Foundation: “Kansas’ restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child care subsidy limit access to healthy food choices, particularly for women and people of color. The financial recession created by the pandemic has added even more barriers to nutritious foods and child care assistance.”

Hilltop Child Development Center: “The last year has been so impactful on so many people. We have worked very hard to assist families who are the most affected. Kansas restrictions on SNAP and Child Care Subsidies are disproportionately affecting the mothers in our programs.”

Kansas Appleseed: “But in reality, conditioning benefits like SNAP and Child Care Assistance on child support cooperation actually exacerbates the inevitable tension faced by low-income parents between a manageable burden and being able to provide enough income support for the child’s well-being."

Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children: “We know that many families who qualify for assistance such as child care subsidy and SNAP nutrition are not utilizing these services, which can lead to placement in unregulated, and sometimes unsafe, care settings and increased food insecurity for families of young children.”

Kansas Children's Service League: "We know from years of research that one a key to child abuse prevention is access to concrete supports. Child care is a very specific concrete support; and quality child care is key. Child care subsidy is critical for some parents to access this support."

Kalesha Pollman, Kansas Children’s Service League: “I have over 5 families in a span of 4 months not want to receive services due to already working it out between themselves, or didn’t want to ruin the co-parenting relationship they had built, or others didn’t want dad to be involved as he left before they baby was due.”

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence: “Domestic violence and sexual assault victims often need to rely on these safety net services during the time period after leaving abusive partners along with securing an employment opportunity that will allow for victims to properly, effectively, and sustainably care for themselves and/or their children.”

Kansas Head Start Association: "Advanced education increases potential earning power and improves the financial stability of Kansas families. Reducing poverty among Kansas families increases the development, learning and life outcomes for Kansas children."

Kansas Parents as Teachers Association: “As we work to connect families with resources that support their family well-being through both SNAP and child care subsidies we continue to find that families have to choose between acceptance of policies that keep them from achieving their long term goals of education in order to provide for the immediate needs of their family.”

Kansas Public Health Association: “The changes outlined in HB 2371 will better align state mandates with federal requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child care subsidy. This alignment will bring clarity to those seeking assistance and to those assisting Kansans in accessing these needed services.”

Kelli Mengarelli, Crawford County Mental Health: "The childcare providers that I work with see parents everyday who are doing their best to provide their children with all the opportunities that they themselves may or may not have afforded."

March of Dimes: “The current pandemic crisis has not only disproportionately affected the most vulnerable individuals in our communities with the burden of disease and economic impacts, it has especially burdened these populations in regard to food insecurity.”

Montgomery County Action Council: “We have amazing educational opportunities, and hundreds of available jobs ready for these graduates, but they need support in order to finish their education so we can continue to grow our workforce and the Kansas economy.”

Melinda Lewis, LMSW, Prairie Village: “Enacting HB 2371 would remove some of the most difficult obstacles people face trying to access essential nutrition and childcare supports—and send an invaluable message that the state is on the side of those trying to improve their children’s well-being.”

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault: “Domestic violence and sexual assault victims often rely on these safety net services during the time after leaving abusive partners and obtaining an employment opportunity that will allow for victims to properly, effectively, and sustainably care for themselves and/or their children.”

Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, Ph.D., M.S.W.: “Policies that increase access to programs such as SNAP and child care subsidies are likely to have a positive impact. Therefore, these concrete supports to address basic needs should be among the top priorities at the federal, state, and local levels to prevent child maltreatment and other forms of violence.”

Nurture KC: “Recognizing the value of removing barriers to SNAP eligibility is a key first step in acknowledging the ongoing struggle that so many families are facing to put food on the table. Expanding access to childcare assistance is another critical tool in achieving economic self-sufficiency for which families are striving.”

Diann Gambill, Family Response Advocate, Pittsburg: “In years past, I have witnessed consumers opt not to apply for food assistance, due to not wanting the abuser or perpetrator to be invited back into their lives. This not only creates a deficit within their homes but also within our communities as a whole.”

Safehouse Crisis Center: “Because these resources can be life-changing for so many victims of domestic and sexual violence, the Safehouse Crisis Center strongly supports the passage of HB2371.”

Success By 6 Coalition of Douglas County “supports HB2371 because we see how families are doing their best to nurture their infants, train up their toddlers, and educate their preschoolers under increasingly harsh economic conditions. These families need and deserve our state to honor them and their contributions.”

The Family Conservancy: “Our experience with the current restrictions, specifically ​the requirement to cooperate with child support services, diminishes the true purpose of the child care subsidy program.”

Cecilia Douglass, parent, Garden City: “My hope is this plea resonates with you as you move forward. Though I no longer require state aid it breaks my heart to think of other mothers forced to rely on peanut butter, milk, eggs, and cheese from WIC to nourish their children in financial hardships.”

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