2023 Kansas and Missouri Legislative Update
With just a few weeks left in the legislative session, things are moving quickly. Here are some updates on the bills that we’ve been tracking.
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Kansas Legislative Updates
The Wrong Approach to the Child Care Crisis
At a time when both the supply and demand sides of the child care sector are facing significant challenges, we can appreciate the intent of HB 2344 — to improve access to early care and education programs. We share this goal. However, the bill’s approach is dangerously wrong. It aims to improve capacity by increasing child-teacher ratios and easing caregiver qualifications. Further, it cements these dangerous changes in statue, hindering the agility of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to adapt and evolve to changing dynamics in the child care system.
Unfortunately, this bill has passed both chambers and has been sent to the Governor, where we hope it will be vetoed.
Budget Increases Funding for Child Care Subsidy
The budget was passed on April 5, and an increase in the state matching funding to draw down additional federal dollars for child care subsidies was included. This should improve access to child care for low-income families.
Previously, the state extended eligibility to families at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($57,575 for a family of three). This has made a significant impact, providing support to many more families who would still be unable to afford the high. However, without setting reimbursement rates that cover the actual cost of care, we will continue to face supply issues and the care will continue to be inaccessible for many.
Improving Access to Child Care Subsidies
HB 2179 is another piece of legislation we’ve been following closely. This bill was originally introduced to remove non-cooperation with child support as a disqualification for child care assistance — bringing Kansas into compliance with federal regulations (state child care subsidy programs are primarily funded by the federal Child Care and Development Fund). At TFC, we have seen first-hand how this requirement prevents single mothers and young children from receiving the support they need, and diminishes the true purpose of the child care subsidy program.
The original bill completely removed child support from consideration. Unfortunately, it was amended to reintroduce child support compliance as a disqualification after a twelve month period. The amended bill was combined with another bill and approved in both chambers. While the amended bill is a step in the right direction, it does not solve the problem. We need the legislature to recognize that the potential benefit of providing high-quality care far outweighs the value of penalizing parents with past due child support.
Anti-vaccine Legislation Endangers Children
There have been several anti-vaccine bills introduced this session. The bill we’ve been following most closely is SB 315. It would expand the definition of religious exemptions for child wellness vaccines to attend school and child care. The new definition would allow nonreligious beliefs to count for the religious exemption. It would also bar schools and child care programs from inquiring into the sincerity of the belief. This bill was passed by the Senate on March 29 and is awaiting a committee hearing in the House.
Flat Taxes Threaten the Most Vulnerable Kansans
Revising the state tax code has been a popular topic throughout the session. On April 6, the legislature passed a bill that includes a flat tax rate of 5.15%. This proposal will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars while giving the majority of tax cuts to the wealthiest Kansans, at the detriment of programs which benefit the most vulnerable Kansans. The families we serve would be negatively impacted by these sweeping changes, as benefits they rely on – such as child care subsidy, food assistance, and public education; just to name a few – could be at stake.
Missouri Legislative Updates
Through the legislative session, we’ve been excited to see that child care has finally become a priority issue. There have been some really great pieces of legislation introduced. Unfortunately, there is also some problematic legislation that is being considered.
Child Care Tax Credits
Governor Parson included several child care-related investments when he announced his budget proposal in January. One of those investments was a series of tax credits that would inject much-needed investment into the sector. These credits were introduced in HB 870, which passed out of the House on April 3 and is waiting on a hearing in the Senate. The bill includes the following credits:
- Child Care Contribution Tax Credit: A taxpayer may claim a tax credit for donations to a child care provider in an amount up to 75% of the contribution. The donation can not be made to a child care provider in which the taxpayer or a person related to the taxpayer has a direct financial interest.
- Employer-provided Child Care Tax Credit: A taxpayer may claim a tax credit in an amount equal to 30% of the qualified child care expenditures paid or incurred with respect to a child care facility. The maximum amount of any tax credit issued shall not exceed $200,000 per taxpayer per tax year.
- Child Care Provider Tax Credit: A child care provider with three or more employees may claim a tax credit in an amount equal to the child care provider’s eligible employer withholding tax, and may also claim a tax credit in an amount up to 30% of the child care provider’s capital expenditures.
- Success Tax Credit: An eligible taxpayer shall be allowed a nonrefundable tax credit equal to the employment-related expenses for up to two qualifying children, not to exceed:
- Expenses of $1,800 for each child who was under two years of age at any time during the tax year for which the tax credit is being sought; and
- Expenses of $1,200 for each child who was two years of age or older during all of the tax year and under six years of age at any time during the tax year for which the tax credit is being sought.
Improving Access to Child Care Subsidies
Currently, Missouri’s subsidy reimbursement rate is at the 25th percentile for infants, 22nd percentile for preschoolers and 21st percentile for school-aged children relative to the market rate. That means that families who depend on the child care subsidy program to access the care they need have very few options. These low reimbursement rates have caused many providers to choose not to accept subsidies. The budget, as it stands, would raise those rates to the 58th percentile across the board. This aligns with Governor Parson’s budget proposal.
Another bill related to child care subsidies is SB 82. This piece of legislation would allow recipients to receive transitional child care benefits without the requirement that they first be eligible for full child care benefits. Currently, families must have an income at or below 150% ($41,625 for a family of four) of the federal poverty level to qualify for a child care subsidy. Then, they can remain in the program, with a reduced subsidy until their income exceeds 300% of the federal poverty level. This bill has been passed out of the Senate and has an executive session scheduled in the House on April 11.
Increasing Child Care Ratios for In-home Child Care Providers
We’re also following a very concerning piece of legislation, HB 913. This bill would allow in-home child care providers to add four related children without counting them toward their ratio. Missouri’s ratios are already some of the most generous, allowing one provider to care for up to 10 children. If passed, licensed providers would be able to care for up to 14 children. We strongly oppose this legislation and encourage the legislature to consider innovative solutions and increased investments to improve access to child care. This bill was passed by the House on March 27, and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
Limiting Access to DEI Training and Education
At TFC, the majority of our services are directed toward marginalized communities. To be effective, our staff need to be trained and educated to meet clients where they are emotionally, financially, and socially. We’re very concerned by SB 410, which seeks to limit diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in higher education and professional licensing. This bill was voted out of committee on April 6, and is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.
This legislation would be devastating for our future workforce, that of the entire social service sector, and perpetuate systemic racism and discrimination. From our lens as a mental health service provider, this legislation would lead to fewer at-risk Missourians accessing care, suffering needlessly, and dying at the hands of structural racism.
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