Our Turn: New Hampshire’s most vulnerable need you

Published: 3/6/2021 1:00:14 PM

Almost every parent trying to juggle remote working with their child’s virtual learning right now can agree: it’s exhausting. Prior to COVID-19, few would argue with the fact that raising kids is a tiring and often thankless task (no one has ever said that raising children was easy!). But, the pandemic has magnified the problems in our country’s approach to child care, and amplified the child care burden as more parents across the country struggle with all that’s thrown at them.

In recent years, the people of New Hampshire have overwhelmingly supported investing in our kids, especially through early childhood education. Throughout our years working to mobilize early childhood education advocates across the state, we’ve seen how the people of the Granite State can – and often do – unite on behalf of our most vulnerable. As the pandemic shutters local businesses and further reveals the cracks in many of our systems, it simultaneously shines a light on what we should treat as essential moving forward, making some of our longest standing problems impossible to ignore.

Every family having access to affordable high-quality child care is one such example. While New Hampshire hasn’t had a shortage of early childhood education advocates, COVID-19 has made the child care conversation a more popular – and frequently occurring – one. Accessing affordable, high-quality child care has become more difficult for more people as providers are unable to remain open and more working parents struggle to make ends meet.

Temporary solutions, while helpful, can lead to more uncertainty for our child care systems in the long run. This is why we’re encouraging members of our state’s Legislature to support SB 144, which would require the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to provide enrollment-based reimbursements to child care providers participating in the child care scholarship program, a program that offers financial assistance for families in need.

Prior to COVID-19, New Hampshire’s policy was to reimburse child care providers based on qualifying children’s attendance. If the state’s payout did not cover tuition, providers were faced with the decision of asking these low-income families to pay the difference, or otherwise eat the loss of tuition. In response to the pandemic, New Hampshire switched temporarily to enrollment-based reimbursement to better stabilize the child care industry. This bill would make permanent the reimbursement policy that is currently in practice.

Shifting from attendance-based payment to enrollment-based reimbursements for participating child care providers would level the playing field for families qualifying for child care scholarships. This change would incentivize child care programs to open their doors to these families and provide stability to working parents, who need it now more than ever.

We continue to be impressed by the support we see in our community, and I’m confident that the people of New Hampshire will come together and take care of each other. Over 500 Granite Staters signed in their support for SB 144 ahead of its first committee hearing in the State Senate, proving that our state is ready to secure our future by making this investment in child care. But it shouldn’t just be up to the community to take care of one another. Our elected leaders need to provide stability to New Hampshire’s communities. Passing SB 144 is a great place to start by giving parents some peace of mind, knowing affordable child care is on the horizon.

I think you’ll agree having one less thing to worry about right now sounds pretty good.

(Emily Johnson is the New Hampshire State Manager for Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). Rebecca Woitkowski is the Kids Count Policy Coordinator for New Futures.)

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