Wisconsin Undercuts its Own Success in Improving Child Care Quality

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 1:49 PM by

Wisconsin’s commitment to affordable child care for working families has waned in recent years, making it more difficult for child care providers to work towards improving the quality of child care, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Many parents with low incomes wouldn’t be able to afford to work without the child care subsidies provided through the Wisconsin Shares program. In 2015, Wisconsin Shares served 46,000 children each month, on average. But the number of children served by Wisconsin Shares has fallen considerably in the past few years, declining 21% between 2008 and 2015. The decline in rural areas has been the most severe.

The smaller the county, the greater the drop in children served

There has been an even steeper decline in payments to child care providers over this period, with payments dropping by 36% since 2008. Payment rates have been nearly frozen over this period, meaning that inflation has chipped away at the amounts paid to providers, and the state has implemented policies that result in lower payments to providers. Read more

Vague Proposal to Change Public Assistance May be Rushed through Next Week

Friday, February 12, 2016 at 5:25 PM by

Proposal to Alleviate “Cliff Effects” Could Significantly Reduce Assistance for Many

Two legislative leaders have proposed a resolution that could result in very significant changes in public benefits, but we don’t know what those changes will be. The resolution that was introduced yesterday – as Senate Joint Resolution 102 and Assembly Joint Resolution 109 – may be scheduled for a floor vote next week without ever getting a public hearing, and after almost no opportunity for public input!

The stated objective of the resolution sounds good – alleviating the “cliff effects” in public benefit programs. In other words, the goal is to redesign public benefit programs so people don’t hit or fall off a “cliff” when their family income reaches the eligibility ceiling. Legislators in both parties and advocates for public assistance programs agree that that’s a very worthwhile objective. But there are good and bad ways to eliminate or reduce cliff effects (none of which are easy), and the vague resolution doesn’t indicate what solution(s) the authors have in mind.  Read more

Categories: Blog, child care, ECONOMIC SECURITY, health care reform | Comments Off on Vague Proposal to Change Public Assistance May be Rushed through Next Week

Important Choices Tuesday on Funding for Welfare to Work and Child Care Programs

Monday, May 5, 2014 at 8:04 PM by

New Federal Money Provides Chance to Close Large Hole in W-2 and Improve Child Care 

Wisconsin got some good news from Washington over the last couple of months, in the form of supplemental federal funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and additional child care and development funds (CCDF).  The plans for using part of that additional funding – $19.8 million from TANF and $3.8 million from CCDF – will be reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) on May 6th.  (The LFB paper can be found here.)

I’ve written numerous times over the past year or so about the fact that the biennial budget bill made very unrealistic assumptions about declining participation in the state’s welfare to work program, known as Wisconsin Works or W-2.  The budget bill cut the W-2 appropriation and siphoned off TANF block grant funding by using it to supplant state funds for the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Read more

Categories: 2013-15 biennial budget, Blog, child care, ECONOMIC SECURITY, Joint Finance Committee, TANF, W-2 | Comments Off on Important Choices Tuesday on Funding for Welfare to Work and Child Care Programs

Wisconsin Skimps on Investments in Child Care

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM by
Wisconsin has been reducing investments that give families access to high-quality child care, a move that will hurt children’s school-readiness and success in later life.

DCF and DHS Plan Would Close Part of the W-2 Funding Shortfall

Friday, October 4, 2013 at 10:42 AM by

Since late spring we’ve been raising concerns that the biennial budget bill cuts funding for the welfare-to-work program known as Wisconsin Works (W-2) based on faulty assumptions.  This June 17 paper examines the problem and explains how reducing W-2 spending and shifting federal block grant funds made it easier to cut state taxes in the budget bill.

This week the Walker Administration acknowledged the W-2 shortfall and submitted a plan to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to narrow the funding gap by $9.6 million. The plan submitted to JFC by the Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) and Dept. of Health Services (DHS) closes part of the gap by using unallocated federal funding known as “income augmentation” revenues.  These funds are received by the state as the federal share of state and local spending for things like Targeted Case Management and the Medicaid HealthCheck program.

The proposal identifies a total of about $33.7 million of income augmentation funds, of which the biennial budget bill has already committed $19.6 million during fiscal year 2013-14. Read more

Categories: child care, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, Joint Finance Committee, TANF, W-2 | Comments Off on DCF and DHS Plan Would Close Part of the W-2 Funding Shortfall

Wisconsin Budget Compounds the Economic Challenges for Low-wage Workers

Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 11:40 AM by

Workers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. must still cope with a relatively weak labor market.  That is especially challenging for low-wage workers who are struggling with the declining value of the minimum wage, reductions in employer benefits like health care, and growing inequality. Those challenges are exacerbated in Wisconsin by budget decisions made by state lawmakers.

A new Wisconsin Budget Project issue brief examines how the how state budget choices are affecting low-wage workers in Wisconsin.  It focuses primarily on the effects of the new budget bill, but also examines a few instances of how that bill continues or compounds the challenges for low-wage workers caused by the 2011-13 budget.  

Some of the major effects include the following policy choices relating to health insurance, child care, taxes and unemployment insurance:

Making health insurance and care much more expensive for many parents now in BadgerCare

The 2013-15 budget bill cuts in half the income eligibility ceiling for adults participating in BadgerCare – reducing that cap from 200% of the federal poverty level to just 100%.  Read more

Categories: 2013-15 biennial budget, BadgerCare Plus, Blog, child care, EITC, Medicaid, taxes, unemployment benefits | Comments Off on Wisconsin Budget Compounds the Economic Challenges for Low-wage Workers

DCF Unveils Policy Change that Penalizes Family Child Care

Friday, August 19, 2011 at 9:28 PM by

Imagine your boss telling you that your business is taking a step to encourage productivity and trim costs by converting your pay from a monthly salary to a daily wage – with no compensation for sick days, personal days, or vacation days. That would be hard to take, but would be a little bit easier to swallow if the daily compensation is calculated to offset the loss of paid days off.

But imagine that your employer doesn’t do that — so you’ll take a big pay cut when the daily pay rate is computed by dividing your previous monthly salary by the number of business days in the month. (If you get 3 weeks of paid vacation and holidays, and also take an average of 5 paid sick days or personal days each year – for a total of 20 paid days off — the new pay plan would amount to about an 8 percent cut from your previous annual earnings.)

Envision that these changes are imposed despite the fact that you have accepted a frozen salary level for each of the past five years. Read more

Categories: Blog, child care | Comments Off on DCF Unveils Policy Change that Penalizes Family Child Care

Finance Committee Votes Tuesday on Important Issues for Low-income Families

Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 2:07 AM by

Many very important issues in the budget bill have gotten little or no public attention. That’s true of most of the topics coming up this Tuesday, May 31, relating to support for low-income families – including topics like Wisconsin Works (W-2), the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program, the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other uses of federal funds from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant.

The full May 31 agenda of the Joint Finance Committee and links to all of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) papers can be found on the JFC website. This post provides a summary of some of the more significant issues for children and families, and links to those LFB papers.

Using TANF funds to supplant state EITC funding – Unfortunately, one key issue didn’t get an issue paper, perhaps because it’s the continuation of a funding shift that was initiated in the budget repair bill. Read more

Categories: Blog, child care, EITC, Joint Finance Committee, TANF, W-2 | Comments Off on Finance Committee Votes Tuesday on Important Issues for Low-income Families