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News & Press: Legislative News

Session 2019: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Thursday, May 30, 2019   (0 Comments)
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Overnight Special Session

The Legislature accomplished their goal of a one day special session. The original plan was that the special session would begin on Thursday, May 23rd and adjourn by 7am on Friday, May 24th. Instead, the special session began on Friday and ended just before 7am on Saturday, May 25th. The remaining budget omnibus bills were the only pieces of legislation considered during this special session.

Both bodies worked in marathon fashion overnight to finish passing the state’s two-year, $48.3 billion budget. The Governor is expected to sign all of the bills.

2019 Legislation - Health and Human Services

The theme of the year for committees with jurisdiction over Health and Human Services was child care assistance fraud, and this was reflected in the final bill. Following the first Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) report on the subject, everyone agreed that changes needed to be made. The Governor, House and Senate all included suggestions from the OLA and the third party investigator, PFM, into their budgets.

The biggest disappointment of this session is the fact that yet again, providers and families get no child care assistance program (CCAP) reimbursement rate increases. This was really a crushing blow, and directly caused by the outcry over fraud within the program. We entered session with a Governor and House strongly in support of raising CCAP rates, and a Senate that last year approved raising rates to the 25th percentile of 2018 market rates and had many members willing to do the same this year. The constant drumbeat of fraud in the program, however, created a political issue far beyond what advocates could surmount. The Senate decided to use it as one of its top political talking points and campaign issues, and in the end succeeded in insuring that no new state money went into CCAP. A few bad actors were allowed to make losers of low-income children and the providers who serve them.   

Some anti-fraud related provisions that were included in the final bill are:

  • Accurate record-keeping as a requirement for payment and enhanced penalties for fraudulent record-keeping

  • Funding for two additional law enforcement officers under contract with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct criminal investigations in child care assistance program cases

  • Funding for two data analysts to work on fraud and abuse within CCAP

  • The addition of a temporary employee for FY20-21 to work on improvements to oversight of CCAP

  • The purchase of a system for the Office of Inspector General to record, track, and report on investigative activity related to fraud prevention (it was revealed in the second CCAP report from the OLA that there is no system in place to track fraud investigations, not even in basic form such as an Excel document)

  • Direction to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to recommend additional legislation that identifies and clarifies the department and counties’ responsibilities for fraud investigations within public programs

    • Other changes applicable to centers:

  • Family-friendly CCAP provisions: Language for homeless family assistance, portability pool changes and families in transition from the MN Family Investment Program (MFIP, or cash assistance) were all included.  This is a win for families and providers!  Homeless families will now have their CCAP applications processed within 5 days, and if qualifying will receive up to 90 days of CCAP without having to meet work/school activity requirements.  Families will no longer risk losing CCAP when they move from one county to another.  And families who wish to transition off of MFIP sooner than in the past will not be penalized for doing so by losing their CCAP support.  These changes bring MN more into compliance with federal law passed in 2014, but we are still missing the biggest piece of compliance: reimbursement rates tied to the most recent market survey. 

  • Exit interview with discussion of potential violations required prior to issuing a correction order or negative action (unless license holder refuses exit interview)

  • Reusable water bottles and cups allowed with defined daily sanitizing procedures

  • Funding for eight additional child care licensing staff for inspections and technical assistance

  • Direction to DHS to develop and implement a process to review licensing results and look at trends in correction orders issued

  • DHS is instructed to review statute and rule in order to identify duplicative or unnecessary record-keeping or documentation for providers. Under this provision, they are also instructed to establish a process for child care providers to electronically send requested information to the Department

Some family child care- specific provisions that were included are:

  • Family member of a child in care at a family day care home that does not supervise other children does not need training or a background check

  • Creation of family child care task force to “identify difficulties that providers face regarding licensing and inspection”

  • The creation of a plain-language handbook for family child care providers. The handbook will be published on the DHS website, and physical copies will be available for public use through DHS and every county human services office

Some provisions that were ultimately not included are:

  • Surety bonds for child care centers

  • Expansion of legal non-licensed child care

  • Limit to dependents of center employees benefitting from CCAP (it remains at 25 children of employees using CCAP per center)

  • Forcing providers to lose a Parent Aware rating for 2 years anytime maltreatment was determined – whether against the program or an individual staff person

  • Eliminating the Accelerated Pathway within Parent Aware, which allows nationally accredited providers to have a streamlined rating process

2019 Legislation - Education

The final bill contained a total appropriation of $75,209,000 for FY20 and $70,709,000 in FY21 for Early Learning Scholarships. This is an increase of $4.5 million. The final bill also included the creation of the special revenue account for early learning scholarships, which will prevent the required cancellation of unspent funds.

The final bill continued (funds were set to expire) but did not increase the roughly $45 million dollars of funding for the Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) program. Districts currently offering it will continue to do so, but it is not anticipated that any new districts or increased slots will become available.

Overall, not much policy was included in the final bill. Any policy that was not adopted during the conference committee process was left out of the final deal. The main policy provisions MCCA was tracking were changing age eligibility for scholarships, requiring teaching licenses for public preschool teachers, and requiring mixed-delivery of school districts in partnership with community-based providers for VPK.  None of those changes were adopted.

Other Interests to MCCA

Tax Credit for Parents/Providers/Teachers: MCCA’s tax credit proposal got more attention this year than in the past several.  The bills were given favorable hearings in both the House and Senate, but again failed to be included in the final tax bill. 

Child care market rate survey: Will now be conducted every three years (instead of two) beginning in FY2021. This mirrors the minimum requirement in federal law.

Ombudsperson for child care providers: This was not included in the final bill.

Thank you to all who emailed, called, or visited elected officials in response to MCCA action alerts. Thanks also to our Ewald consultants Phil Griffin and Allie Wroble who spent endless hours at all times of day tracking legislation, setting up and attending legislative meetings, testifying, advising the MCCA board, etc. We must keep up the drumbeat and let officials know that the minor changes made this session are simply not enough for what young children, families, providers, and employers in MN need. This session was a disappointment, but we will keep up the fight. 

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