Bill could finance child care assistance

R.I. Works is intended to help single parents who are attempting to acquire new job skills

Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rhode Island House Finance Committee reviewed legislation April 10 that would provide cash assistance to working parents who are also enrolled in training or degree programs to help finance child care.

Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, and Rep. Maria Cimini, D-Providence, introduced the legislation, entitled Rhode Island Works, Jan. 23 along with Rep. Grace Diaz, D-Providence, Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, and Rep. Larry Valencia, D- Richmond, Exeter and Hopkinton.

The bill is an effort to extend subsidized child care to eligible parents who are working at least 20 hours per week and want to pursue further job training, Cimini said, adding that low-income families currently receive subsidized child care for hours of work but not hours of education or training programs.

Cimini said she introduced the bill in support of single parents who lack the skills or credentials to seek out better paying jobs and also are forced to choose between watching their children or pursuing training.

During the testimonies at the House committee hearing, Diaz explained that the bill would attempt to decrease the working class “skills gap” and provide a path to economic self-sufficiency, which could lead to otherwise unobtainable higher paying jobs.

If passed, Rhode Island Works will apply to families already receiving public assistance and earning incomes no greater than 180 percent above the poverty level. In her testimony, Diaz said this translates into an annual income of about $34,365 for a family of three.

When a parent finds the time in his or her schedule to pursue additional training, he or she quickly realizes that the costs of tuition, fees, books and child care are major obstacles, Diaz said. This creates non-ideal and potentially dangerous child care situations, she said, adding that parents may leave their children in the care of unlicensed persons or even leave them home alone.

Rhode Island Works will function alongside various “train and place” programs, which last around three months and offer employment opportunities upon completion, already established in the state. At the committee hearing, the Genesis Center — where adults can receive English as a Second Language instruction, job training and financial literacy training, as well as map out a plan of self-sufficiency — was cited as an example of one of the available programs.

“We want to help them help themselves,” Almeida said.

The process of applying for this program does not create any additional paperwork and does not increase the pool of those eligible for child care subsidies, Cimini said, adding that it only applies to state residents who have already been receiving assistance and are already working.

At the hearings, Rachel Flum, a policy analyst at the non-partisan research group Economic Progress Institute said, “This is for people who simply want to move up the job ladder.”

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