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HHS issues proposed rule to improve childcare access

The rule would cap copayments for all families to no more than 7% of their income, along with other measures.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Photo: juanma hache/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), has issued a proposed rule strengthening key policies in the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), a program that subsidizes childcare costs for 1.5 million children and impacts 230,000 childcare providers who receive subsidies.

HHS said it expects the proposed rule will help families better access childcare, lower costs for families, increase financial stability for providers and reduce paperwork for families trying to access subsidies.

If enacted in a final rule, the proposed policies would purportedly reduce the amount that families receiving childcare subsidies pay for childcare and expand childcare options for parents. 

"The proposed policies would ensure timely and more stable payments for childcare providers and also encourage better payment rates," said HHS.


Specifically, the proposed rule seeks to reduce the financial strain that high copayments can cause for families receiving childcare assistance by capping copayments for all families to no more than 7% of their income, and allowing states to waive copayments entirely for families at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.

The rule also supposedly increases parents' childcare options by stabilizing operations for participating providers and encouraging more providers to participate in CCDF. The result would also ensure payments are timely and stable and encourage higher payment rates, in order to better cover the cost of care.

Additionally, the proposed rule encourages CCDF Lead Agencies to streamline eligibility and enrollment processes to make it easier for families to receive childcare assistance faster, make program bureaucracy less likely to disrupt parent employment, training and education and less likely to impede access to childcare. The process includes proposals to allow states to extend presumptive eligibility to families, and to encourage states to allow all families to enroll for CCDF benefits online.

The public is invited to submit comments on these proposed rules, which are due 45 days after publication on July 13


A little over a year ago, in June, HHS released "The Blueprint for Change: A National Framework for a System of Services for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs" in an effort to improve care for such children.

According to HHS data, one in four families in the U.S. has at least one child with a special healthcare need. These children have, or are at increased risk for, chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions. There are an estimated 14 million children nationwide who require specialized care and services.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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