Child Care Works (CCW), Pennsylvania’s subsidized childcare program, makes it possible for eligible low-income families to find reliable childcare near their home or work and provides financial assistance to help them afford it. As of October 1, 2019, approximately 39,500 children in approximately 22,600 families were accessing Child Care Works in Philadelphia County.
Through CCW, families have access to quality care programs that may otherwise be out of their reach. “Through the CCW partnerships, eligible families make a co-payment to the childcare provider in addition to the state subsidy Child Care Works issues to the provider. The co-payment varies according to family income and the number of people in each family,” said Brandon Cwalina, Deputy Communications Director for Department of Human Services (DHS). “Families who are not employed and are receiving childcare through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, to attend a training program, have a $0 co-payment.”
Pennsylvania is one of only nine states with family level fixed dollar copayments that are not based on the cost of the childcare selected by the family, calculated as a percent of family income, or based on the number of children in the family receiving child care.
Private pay families are charged by the child. Cwalina said Pennsylvania’s childcare subsidy program includes several features, like a fixed dollar amount copayment based on family size and income range, that are designed to help ease low income families’ transition to self-sufficiency. “A family’s copayment remains constant even if the family income changes slightly, as the copayment is not based on the cost of care or calculated as a percent of family income and does not vary based on the number of children in the family receiving child care. In other words, a low-income family is not burdened with doubling or tripling childcare costs for each additional child requiring care,” he said.
The family co-payment is scaled based on family size and the family’s income, driven by the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines (FPIG), which are updated annually. DHS anticipates issuing updates to the regulations in early 2020 which does not include changes to the copayment structure. Cwalina said DHS values and encourages public and stakeholder participation in the regulation updating process. When changes are proposed in the future, DHS will review any comments or recommendations about the regulations, including the co-pay structure, offered during the formal public comment period.
DHS reviews the co-pay structure and modifies it annually when the updated FPIG are released. Changes are posted in the PA Bulletin and are typically implemented in May.
Child Care Information Services (CCIS) is the name of former business partners now known as the Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRC). These business partners administer Pennsylvania’s subsidized childcare services program, Child Care Works (CCW), on the Department’s behalf. “The ELRC does not make independent decisions on the costs of childcare. Co-payments and reimbursement rates are set at the state level,” said Cwalina. “Childcare reimbursement rates and the copayment structure are informed by the price childcare providers charge their private pay families. This information is gathered through a Market Rate Survey, required periodically by the Child Care Development Block Grant.”
Additionally, Pennsylvania’s program has features that assist people in transitioning into employment while prioritizing childcare assistance, as childcare often proves to be a major barrier to employment.