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RULES AND REGULATIONS

Title 55--PUBLIC WELFARE

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE

[55 PA. CODE CHS. 3040 AND 3041]

Subsidized Child Care Eligibility

[35 Pa.B. 3491]

   The Department of Public Welfare (Department), under the authority of the Public Welfare Code (62 P. S. §§ 201--211, 401--493 and 701--703), deletes Chapter 3040 and adds Chapter 3041 (relating to subsidized child care eligibility) to read as set forth in Annex A.

   Notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 34 Pa.B. 5044 (September 11, 2004).

Purpose of Final-Form Rulemaking

   The purpose of the final-form rulemaking is to help families of low income more easily obtain affordable, accessible and quality child care. The Department intends to create a fairer and more equitable child care system that supports families in their efforts to achieve and maintain financial self-sufficiency. The final-form rulemaking provides families increased and easier access to this Commonwealth's subsidized child care system and allows working families of low income who might not have qualified previously to become eligible for subsidized child care benefits.

   The Department's goal is to develop a ''user-friendly'' child care system that is accessible to eligible families who need help finding and paying for quality child care that is responsive to their needs. The final-form rulemaking supports families and children by promoting the following goals:

   (1)  Healthy child development by increasing access to high quality child care for infants, toddlers, preschool and school-age children and by reducing administrative processes that may cause interruption in services or frequent change of provider.

   (2)  Family self-sufficiency by giving parents reliable child care so they can work or improve their skills and earning potential through education or training while working.

   (3)  Parent choice by providing parents with a broad range of child care options and empowering them to make their own decisions on the child care that best meets the needs of the child and the family.

   Chapter 3041 replaces Chapter 3040 in its entirety.

Affected Individuals and Organizations

   The final-form rulemaking affects children who receive subsidized child care, parents who apply for or receive subsidized child care, child care providers (providers) and eligibility agencies.

   Children and parents are affected by the requirements in the final-form rulemaking that specify the eligibility conditions, verification and reporting requirements that they must meet to access subsidized child care. Providers are affected by the simplified requirements that apply to the families receiving child care services. Eligibility agencies are affected since the final-form rulemaking changes the process and requirements regarding the eligibility determination and redetermination procedures. Waiting lists may be increased since more children will be eligible for subsidized child care.

Accomplishments and Benefits

   The final-form rulemaking benefits children and families of low income by allowing easier access to affordable, quality child care. Improvements include: simplifying the verification requirements to make it easier for families to apply and qualify for child care, recognizing that participation in education and training is an effective way to support job advancement and self-sufficiency and allowing families to make their own child support arrangements, rather than requiring pursuit of court-ordered child support as a prerequisite for receiving subsidized child care. A new provision supports continuity of quality child care for children in school-district sponsored prekindergarten programs that support families who need extended hours of care. Simplification of the final-form rulemaking makes the eligibility process easier to understand for parents and eligibility agencies.

Fiscal Impact

   The final-form rulemaking will result in no additional costs to parents receiving subsidized child care, providers, eligibility agencies or local government. The Department's budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2005-2006 includes $10.25 million, which is a combination of $8.635 million in Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funds and $1.615 million in the Child Care Services State Appropriation. The final-form rulemaking will result in the Department expanding access to serve an estimated 3,388 additional children annually. The final-form rulemaking allows children to be served by a subsidized child care program that is designed to be fair and equitable within the funding that is available.

Paperwork Requirements

   The final-form rulemaking results in reduced paperwork and recordkeeping for parents and eligibility agencies. The final-form rulemaking reduces initial paperwork for parents by providing additional options for verification, including self-certification, self-declaration and collateral contacts. In addition, the Department will be implementing a new enhancement of the Child Care Management Information System (CCMIS), a computerized management system to be used by all eligibility agencies. The new enhancement of the CCMIS will reduce paperwork for parent and eligibility agencies. Written notices and most of the other forms that families must use for the eligibility determination process will be standardized and automated in the CCMIS.

Public Comment

   The Department has worked closely with families who access the subsidized child care program, child development and community service advocates, providers, eligibility agencies and other interested stakeholders to listen and respond to the needs, concerns and suggestions of these groups. The final-form rulemaking is the result of an ongoing, inclusive process between the child care community and the Department.

   Written comments, suggestions and objections regarding the proposed rulemaking were requested within a 30-day period following publication of proposed rulemaking. A total of 40 comment letters, including e-mail and faxes, were received by the Department in response to the proposed rulemaking. The Department received comments from every sector of the community that will be affected by the rulemaking, including families who access subsidized child care, child development and community service advocates, eligibility agencies, one university and local government.

   The comments submitted by the Pennsylvania Child Care Campaign (PCCC) included support for the rulemaking by 32 child development, provider and community service advocacy organizations, such as United Way agencies, Pennsylvania Association of Child Care Agencies, Community Legal Services, Community Justice Project, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Success Against All Odds, that joined together to show their collective support. Although the letter from PCCC was one comment letter, the letter represents 45% of the commentators on this rulemaking.

Discussion of Major Comments and Major Changes

   Following is a summary of the major comments received within the public comment period following publication of proposed rulemaking and the Department's response to the comments. A summary of the major changes from the proposed rulemaking is also included.

General--Costs to eligibility agencies

   The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) noted that the proposed rulemaking may increase the administrative duties of eligibility agencies and the costs of operating the subsidized child care program, based on recordkeeping and verification. Should administrative expenses increase, IRRC questioned how the eligibility agencies will be reimbursed.

Response

   The simplification of the verification process will reduce paperwork and permit time now spent in administrative tasks to be redirected to support more focused counseling and time with families, such as assisting families with verification. In addition, the Department will be implementing a new enhancement of the CCMIS. The enhancement will automate additional steps of the eligibility determination process including producing written notices to families, producing automated forms for the redetermination process, making provisions to automatically track the dates for eligibility agencies when information is due from parents and calculating income for families.

General--Funding

   Several commentators and IRRC questioned if additional funding is needed to serve the children currently enrolled in the subsidized child care program and how these costs will be funded.

Response

   The Department is budgeting sufficient carry forward funds for FY 2005-2006 to serve the same number of children as served during the previous year.

General--Promoting family self-sufficiency and impact on the waiting list

   Several commentators and IRRC questioned the goal of promoting family self-sufficiency and how access to care will increase if waiting lists are expanded.

Response

   Allowing families to include education and training in their hours of work promotes self-sufficiency. Adults with higher levels of education have greater earning potential and long-term job security. This final-form rulemaking provides families with incentives to continue to make progress in achieving economic independence. The past practice of permitting families with income up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines (FPIG) to enter the program and sustain participation up to 235% of the FPIG is continued. Once a participating family reaches 235% of the FPIG, the family is more able to cover the costs of purchasing child care.

   The removal of access barriers, the simplification of the approach to eligibility and the focus on fairness allows families to more efficiently access subsidized child care so families can more appropriately focus on meeting and retaining employment, which promotes self-sufficiency.

   The demand for subsidized child care has always exceeded the resources available because the Department strives to offer subsidy to meet the child care needs of as many working families as possible to allow families to maintain self-sufficiency. Although there may be an increase in the waiting list, the Department will continually realign resources to assure that all available funds are directed to families on the waiting list.

   Some of the eligibility requirements that were implemented in prior years are restored to assure that more working families have the support of subsidized child care needed to maintain employment and reduce barriers that result in the loss of continuous care for the child. Child care is most effective when it is consistent and reliable.

   The Department will manage the program to minimize the waiting list. For example, the Department makes monthly adjustments in the allocations for the funds for subsidized child care in order to minimize waiting and to move families as quickly as possible from eligibility into the subsidized child care program. The waiting list is likely to be smaller than in many other states. This Commonwealth has been able to continue to keep pace with demand. This Commonwealth's current waiting list is 3,247. Some examples of states with much larger waiting lists include California, 280,000; Georgia, 35,743; Florida, 46,315; Maryland, 14,412; Massachusetts, 16,077; New Jersey, 14,668; North Carolina, 24,576; and Texas, 26,518. New York establishes waiting lists by county and does not have a statewide total.

General--Minimum wage

   Several commentators and IRRC questioned removing the minimum wage requirement from the current regulation. Four commentators, including PCCC, supported removing the minimum wage requirement.

Response

   Minimum wage requirements for employees are enforced by the Department of Labor and Industry. Removing the minimum wage requirement eliminates a barrier to access for parents who are self-employed or who work on commission with fluctuating income.

General--Child support

   Eleven commentators, including PCCC, supported excluding the child support requirement from the current regulation. Two commentators opposed removing the child support requirement, stating it causes parents to lose resources and releases noncustodial parents from financial responsibility.

Response

   During the use and application of the current regulation, the Department received ongoing, numerous comments requesting that the Department take steps to remove the child support requirement. Mandatory child support cooperation was recognized as a substantial barrier to needy families accessing the subsidized child care program. Parents provided input about the disruption caused by the mandatory child support cooperation in their access to voluntary support involving both economic and personal resources for their children. Research and analysis of this issue was completed. Under the final-form rulemaking, the eligibility agencies will provide information to parents regarding the benefits of child support in general and court-ordered child support in particular. Eligibility agencies will inquire about, promote and accept any voluntary child support arrangements.

General--Caps on service

   Several commentators and IRRC suggested that removing the 50-hour per week cap on service during hours of work and 12-hour per week cap on service during hours of training from the current regulation will allow families currently enrolled in the subsidized child care program to qualify for more hours of care. Several commentators, including PCCC, supported the removal of the 50-hour per week and 12-hour per week caps on service from the current regulation.

Response

   There are very few instances when families now use more than 50 hours per week of child care during hours of work and training. This change provides the flexibility needed to authorize subsidized child care under the extraordinary circumstance that a parent is consistently working or training for more than 50 hours per week.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Caretaker

   Many commentators, including PCCC, supported the definition of ''caretaker.'' Two commentators oppose removing ''legal custody'' from the definition.

Response

   The Department clarified the issue of legal custody by simplifying the definition to include an individual who has legal custody of the child, a foster parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle who lives with and exercises care and control of a child.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Disability

   Several commentators, including PCCC, requested clarification of disability as used in this rulemaking.

Response

   A definition of ''disability'' was added.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Eligibility redetermination

   One commentator opposed retaining the semiannual review and suggested that an annual review is sufficient.

Response

   Every 6 months, determination of ''assistance'' is required by section 432.2(c) of the Public Welfare Code (62 P. S. § 432.2(c)). The definition of ''assistance'' in section 402 of the Public Welfare Code (62 P. S. § 402) includes ''money and services,'' which covers basically all assistance programs, including subsidized child care. The scope of the redetermination will be limited to key eligibility factors and a simplified process that the parent or caretaker should find less time-consuming than a full review of eligibility status.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Family

   Three commentators opposed excluding live-in companion from the definition of ''family.'' Two commentators, including PCCC, supported the exclusion of the income of a live-in companion from the description of family composition. One commentator suggested the definition of ''family'' should include permanent legal custodian. IRRC questioned the use of biological or adoptive parent or stepparent and notes these terms differ from parent or caretaker used throughout the rulemaking. IRRC recommended the consistent use of parent.

Response

   A live-in companion is not legally responsible for care of the child and therefore is not included in the definition of ''family.'' A permanent legal custodian who lives with the child and exercises care and control of the child meets the definition of ''caretaker'' and is therefore included in the definition of ''family.'' ''Biological, adoptive, foster or stepparent'' was deleted and ''parent'' was added for consistency in wording throughout the final-form rulemaking.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Fiscal year (redesignated as § 3041.85. Record retention)

   The definition was moved to § 3041.85 (relating to record retention) because the term appears only in this section.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Income

   IRRC requested clarification regarding earned and unearned income.

Response

   This clarification was made.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Net profit from self-employment (redesignated as § 3041.65. Verification of income)

   The definition was moved to § 3041.65 (relating to verification of income) because the term appears only in this section.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Parent

   IRRC questioned the use of ''biological'' or

''adoptive parent or stepparent'' and noted these terms differ from parent or caretaker used throughout the rulemaking. IRRC recommended the consistent use of parent.

Response

   Changes were made throughout the final-form rulemaking to reflect the consistent use of ''parent'' as defined.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Partial redetermination

   Clarification was made to explain that the partial redetermination occurs in between the scheduled 6-month redetermination dates.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Payment rate (redesignated as § 3041.102. Department's payment)

   The definition was moved to § 3041.102 (relating to Department's payment) because the term appears only in this section.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Prospective employment

   The definition was revised to include work instead of employment. The timeframe for prospective work was revised from 30 to 60 calendar days following loss of current employment.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--Self-certification

   IRRC questioned whether families may obtain subsidized child care for which they are not eligible since self-certification does not require follow-up documentation. Several commentators, including PCCC, supported self-certification.

Response

   The most critical factors to establish eligibility are income and work hours. The factors that a family may self-certify are items the parent may have difficulty submitting to the eligibility agency and that are unlikely to change between redeterminations. It is burdensome for parents to provide documentation at each redetermination. Accepting the parent's word helps establish a partnership and mutual trust between the eligibility agency and the parent. The basic principle for self-certified factors is to reduce barriers for parents who access subsidized child care.

§ 3041.3. Definitions--TANF--Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

   PCCC suggested that, for purposes of clarity, the definition of ''TANF'' include extended TANF.

Response

   Extended TANF was added to the definition.

§ 3041.12(b). Provision of subsidized child care

   Eighteen commentators requested that children who are under 15 years of age be permitted to receive subsidized child care.

Response

   The upper age limit for receipt of subsidized child care cannot be changed. The age limit is dictated by Federal regulation that establishes the upper age limit at 13 years of age, unless the child has a special physical or mental limitation and needs child care.

   Consistent with the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant, subsidized child care will continue to be available to a child who is 13 years of age or older but under 19 years of age and who is incapable of caring for himself.

§ 3041.12(c). Provision of subsidized child care

   PCCC suggested that the verification requirement appear in a separate verification section.

Response

   The proposed requirement for documentation of a child's physical or mental inability to care for himself was relocated to § 3041.76 (relating to verification of a child's incapability of caring for himself).

§ 3041.13(a). Parent choice

   The House Children and Youth Committee (House Committee) and two commentators questioned if this provision limits parent choice and prohibits a parent from sending a child to a faith-based or another child care facility that is operating without a certificate of compliance, but which is not exempt from certification in this Commonwealth.

   The House Committee and one commentator stated that the requirement for nonprofit child care facilities to receive a certificate of compliance from the Department exceeds the Department's statutory authority.

   One commentator stated that this provision is inconsistent with Federal law that promotes parent choice and recent Federal law changes regarding references to state licensing.

   One commentator suggested that to permit the selection of child care in a family home serving one, two or three children that legally operates without Departmental regulation and certification is not consistent with the requirement to require selection of a certified child care center.

Response

   Under current regulation, as well as under this final-form rulemaking, families may choose and use child care programs that are operated by religious schools and other faith-based entities. Parental selection and use of faith-based child care is permitted and encouraged in the Head Start expansion and the prekindergarten programs, as well as in all child care subsidy services. There is no restriction or regulation as to the religious, spiritual or programmatic nature of the child care program. Parent choice is fully afforded within the provisions of Pennsylvania's governing statutes and regulations.

   The Department does not exceed its statutory authority in requiring a certificate of compliance for nonprofit child care centers. The Department requires that child care subsidy be provided in legally-operated child care facilities. In accordance with sections 901--922 and 1001--1080 of the Public Welfare Code (62 P. S. §§ 901--922 and 1001--1080) and § 20.21(a) (relating to application form), both profit and nonprofit child care facilities must be certified to operate in this Commonwealth. Given the health and safety risks in both profit and no-profit child care facilities, the same substantive regulations have applied to profit and nonprofit child care facilities in this Commonwealth since 1978. Furthermore, sections 901--922 of the Public Welfare Code do not exempt faith-based facilities, whether providing child care or any other type of health or human service. Of the 3,897 certified child care centers in this Commonwealth, there are 1,777 for-profit centers (46%) and 2,120 nonprofit centers (54%). Thus, the majority of certified child care centers in this Commonwealth are nonprofit centers. Of the 2,120 nonprofit child care centers, many are operated by faith-based organizations.

   This provision is consistent with the Federal statutory requirements in 42 U.S.C.A. § 9858c(c)(2)(A), regarding parental choice. As previously stated, this final-form rulemaking permits families to choose a child care program that is legally operated by a faith-based entity. There is no restriction or regulation as to the religious, spiritual or programmatic nature of the child care program. The Federal statutory requirements in 42 U.S.C.A. § 9858c(c)(2)(E) and (F) in no way limit a state's right and responsibility to regulate child care facilities. Rather, the language prohibits a state from funding child care programs that are not certified in accordance with state law. This language clarifies that the authority for state regulation and certification is not under Federal jurisdiction, but a matter for the states to govern.

   The decision to permit the choice of family care in a home serving one, two or three children is entirely consistent with the decision to prohibit the use of noncertified child care centers. In accordance with sections 1070--1080 of the Public Welfare Code (62 P. S. §§ 1070--1080), the General Assembly has explicitly expressed that family homes serving one, two or three children operate legally without a certificate of registration from the Department. There is no statutory exemption for nonprofit or faith-based child care centers. Selection of a child care facility that is specifically exempt from regulation and certification by the Department, including in-home care for one, two or three children, is permitted.

§ 3041.14(a). Subsidy benefits

   One commentator requested that the terms ''payments for child care'' be replaced by ''child care benefits.'' Three commentators, including PCCC, supported allowing subsidized child care for the parent during hours of travel time and uninterrupted sleep time when the parent's shift ends between 12 a.m. and 9 a.m. One commentator opposed allowing subsidized child care during hours of uninterrupted sleep time.

Response

   This section was revised to clarify that a family may receive child care benefits during the hours that the child needs care if the parent or caretaker is employed or attending education or training.

   Subsidized child care may occur during travel time and uninterrupted sleep time that is necessary to retain work or attend education or training. This permits consistency with the TANF program, since families who formerly received TANF benefits may receive subsidized child care during hours of travel and uninterrupted sleep time.

§ 3041.14(b). Subsidy benefits

   IRRC questioned the use of biological or adoptive parent or stepparent and notes these terms differ from parent or caretaker used throughout the rulemaking. IRRC recommended the consistent use of parent.

   PCCC opposed including a live-in companion as an available caregiver because of lack of a legal relationship to the child.

   Two commentators supported allowing subsidized child care in a two-parent family, if one of the parents has a disability or a need for treatment and cannot provide child care.

   Five commentators requested clarification regarding the availability of a parent to care for the child and question if the intent is to subsidize a child in child protective services.

Response

   Changes were made throughout the final-form rulemaking to reflect the consistent use of ''parent'' as defined.

   A live-in companion is considered a caretaker only when he is the parent of a child or has legal custody of a child.

   The requirement allowing subsidized child care in a two-parent family, if one of the parents has a disability or a need for treatment and cannot provide child care was revised and relocated to § 3041.48(b) (relating to eligibility of households including a parent or caretaker with a disability).

   The requirement regarding the availability of a parent to care for the child is deleted because the intent is not to subsidize a child in child protective services.

§ 3041.16. Subsidy limitations

   IRRC suggested adding a cross-reference to proposed § 3041.71 (relating to verification of permanent inability to work).

   One commentator opposed permitting 30 calendar days to select a provider when funding is available and suggested that the allowable time should be 20 days with a 10-day adverse action period.

Response

   Proposed subsection (d) was revised and relocated at § 3041.48(b). Proposed subsection (f) was revised and relocated to subsection (e). A cross-reference was added to § 3041.48(a).

   Under current regulation, parents have 30 days to select a provider. This has been effective and beneficial to parents.

§ 3041.19. Absence

   Clarification was added regarding the days that do not count in the 10 consecutive day absence period because of a child's illness, injury or impairment that precludes a child from attending child care. The timeframe was clarified regarding termination of subsidized child care following the tenth consecutive absence of a child from care.

§ 3041.20. Subsidy continuation during breaks in work, education or training

   Two commentators opposed permitting 60 calendar days of continued eligibility following the date a strike begins, the date of loss of work or graduation. Four commentators, including PCCC, supported allowing 60 calendar days.

   Three commentators, including PCCC, supported expanding family leave from 56 to 84 days. IRRC suggested clarification that maternity leave is included in the allowable family leave.

   One commentator requested clarification of the 30-day limitation regarding regular breaks and suggested that subsidized child care should continue during scheduled breaks other than summer breaks. Two commentators, including PCCC, supported continuation of subsidized child care during regularly scheduled breaks.

Response

   Clarification was made to explain that eligibility, as well as payment, continues during the time periods specified.

   Based on the importance of locating work that leads to self-sufficiency, the 60-day period was retained. This allows a reasonable time period for the parent to find work.

   Clarification was made to explain that maternity leave is included in the allowable family leave.

   The 30-day limitation is retained. Subsidized child care is suspended during regularly scheduled breaks that exceed 30 calendar days.

§ 3041.21. Subsidy suspension

   Subsection (a)(6) was revised to clarify that subsidized child care is suspended when the parent needs to locate another provider because the current provider cannot meet the parent's child care needs.

   Subsection (a)(8) was added to clarify that subsidized child care is suspended when a parent has a break in work, education or training that exceeds 30 calendar days, but is no more than 90 calendar days.

   The requirement in subsection (b) was deleted. Subsection (c) was revised and relocated to subsection (b) to clarify that a child is not eligible for subsidy or payment when the child continues to be absent from care for a period exceeding 90 calendar days.

§ 3041.22. Subsidy disruption

   IRRC questioned the reasonableness of basing disruption of subsidy solely on income level. PCCC suggested that the intent is to first disrupt care for children whose family's income is at the highest percentage of the FPIG.

Response

   Subsection (b) was revised to clarify that when a child loses care due to the provider's loss of the Department's certification or registration or another reason that prevents the child's continued care at that facility, the child's subsidy is suspended, regardless of whether funding is immediately available, until the parent selects another provider and funding is available.

   The language in subsection (c)(1) was amended to clarify that service will be disrupted first to families whose income is at the highest percentage of the FPIG.

§ 3041.32. Income counted

   IRRC questioned the use of ''biological or adoptive parents or stepparents'' and notes these terms differ from parent or caretaker used throughout the rulemaking. IRRC recommended the consistent use of ''parent.''

   One commentator, including PCCC, supported excluding the income of the live-in companion in calculating family income. Three commentators opposed excluding the income of the live-in companion. One commentator suggested that the stepparent deduction be applied to the income of a live-in companion.

Response

   ''Biological or foster or adoptive parents or stepparents'' was deleted and ''parent'' was added for consistency in wording throughout the final-form rulemaking.

   The live-in companion is not legally or financially responsible for the support of the child of the other parent and therefore the income of the live-in companion is excluded.

   Clarification was added that the income of all children in the family should be counted, not just the income of the child receiving subsidy.

§ 3041.33(5). Income adjustment

   One commentator suggested that the stepparent deduction apply to grandparents who must raise their grandchildren.

Response

   The language and process regarding stepparent deduction was clarified. Grandparents are not included in the stepparent deduction to assure consistency for working families of low income and families who formerly received TANF.

§ 3041.41. Financial eligibility

   One commentator opposed the requirement that entry level annual family income must be less than 200% of the FPIG at initial application, stating that a caretaker who leaves the program voluntarily after making more than 200% FPIG, but less than 235% FPIG, is unfairly penalized because the family would be ineligible upon accessing the program again. One commentator suggested increasing entry-level income eligibility from 200% of the FPIG to 235%.

Response

   If a parent voluntarily leaves the subsidized child care program before the family income exceeds 235% of the FPIG, the parent will be informed by the eligibility agency that a subsequent application will be viewed as a new, initial application upon accessing the program again.

   The upper income limit of 200% of the FPIG is retained. The child care community and advocates generally view the existing FPIG limit as a fair standard for eligibility, particularly in light of the nonentitlement status of the program.

§ 3041.43(a). Work, education and training

   Six commentators oppose decreasing the work hour requirement from 25 to 20 hours per week. Ten commentators, including PCCC, support the reduction.

Response

   The 20-hour work requirement reduces barriers to subsidized families because many employers offer employment of fewer than 25 hours per week to assure that the work is considered part-time. Many providers offer part-time child care to accommodate part-time work. The Department's goal is to accommodate persons who are working part-time.

§ 3041.43(c). Work, education and training (redesignated as § 3041.43(3))

   Ten commentators, including PCCC, supported permitting 10 of the 20 hours to be spent in training. One commentator questioned whether a parent will be permitted to work for 10 hours and participate in training for 50 hours. The same commentator questioned whether there is a limit on the amount of time a parent is permitted to work for 10 hours and participate in training for 10 hours.

Response

   A parent's circumstances and need for training change along with variables in the job market. Therefore, there is no limit on the total number of hours a parent is permitted to participate in training per week, providing the parent continues to work a minimum of 10 hours.

   Subsection (c) was revised and relocated to paragraph (3) to clarify that the work requirement is met when a parent attends training and works at least 10 hours per week.

§ 3041.43(d). Work, education and training (redesignated as § 3041.43(c))

   IRRC requested clarification regarding how long a parent may remain eligible for subsidized child care when the parent's normal work schedule reflects an average of, or fewer than, 20 hours per week. IRRC suggested the section is vague and may make it difficult for eligibility agencies to administer consistently and uniformly throughout this Commonwealth. IRRC requested clarification of temporary work slow-down and emergency.

Response

   The language was clarified to reflect that a parent will remain eligible for subsidized child care if the parent is currently scheduled to work for an average of 20 hours per week. Temporary work slow-down was deleted from the final-form rulemaking and ''emergency'' was defined. The intent is to assure that only work closures or urgent situations within the family are reasons for not meeting the 20-hour work requirement.

§ 3041.45. Anticipating income

   One commentator opposed waiving the co-payment for applicants who report prospective work, stating that the requirement does not encourage self-sufficiency.

   One commentator opposed assessing co-payment based on anticipated income, stating that it results in additional work for the eligibility agencies because parents often change jobs.

Response

   Subsection (a) was revised to clarify the parent must notify the eligibility agency of the actual amount of income no later than 10 calendar days after receiving the first income for work. Subsection (b) was relocated to § 3041.103(c) (relating to adjusted co-payment for prospective work) to clarify how the family co-payment is determined when a single parent who applies for subsidy and reports prospective work. Subsection (c) was relocated to § 3041.103(d) to clarify how the family co-payment is determined when a single parent who receives subsidy involuntarily loses work and reports prospective work.

   Waiving the co-payment for parents who report prospective work benefits parents who are seeking work for the first time. The period of time the co-payment is waived is limited since a parent must notify the eligibility agency of the actual amount of income no later than 10 calendar days after receipt of the first income. In addition, this change assures consistency for families of low-income and families who formerly received TANF.

   Anticipating income benefits parents who receive subsidized child care and change jobs. A co-payment assessed based on anticipated income is effective for a limited period of time since a parent must notify the eligibility agency of the actual amount of income no later than 10 calendar days after receipt of the first income. In addition, this change assures consistency for families of low-income and families who formerly received TANF.

§ 3041.46(a)(2). Immunization

   PCCC requested deleting the requirement for documentation by a physician and suggested relocating this requirement in the section regarding verification.

Response

   The language regarding a physician's documentation was deleted. The requirement was relocated at § 3041.63 (relating to self-certification). A parent is permitted to self-certify immunization as well as exemptions from immunization.

§ 3041.46(c). Immunization (redesignated as § 3041.63. Self-certification)

   IRRC questioned if a child will be allowed to enter care without documentation of immunizations. IRRC suggested cross-referencing the applicable certification regulations regarding immunizations. PCCC suggested relocating this requirement in the section regarding verification.

Response

   In accordance with §§ 3270.131, 3280.131 and 3290.131 (relating to health assessment), children in certified child care facilities must have updated immunizations within 60 days following enrollment. Therefore, self-certification by the parent for purposes of eligibility is sufficient. The intent of the requirement is to avoid duplication of paperwork that already exists at the certified facility. Cross-references to the certification requirements were added to § 3041.46(a) (relating to immunization). ''Age-appropriate'' was clarified to mean as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This subsection was relocated to § 3041.63(b).

§ 3041.48. Eligibility of households including a parent or caretaker with a disability

   A section was added to clarify how the eligibility requirements for one- and two-parent families when a parent has a disability.

§ 3041.51. Head Start expansion program

   Four commentators, including PCCC, supported the Head Start expansion program. One commentator suggested including Early Head Start. Three commentators opposed the Head Start expansion program, stating that parents with unlimited resources can access the program regardless of parent income. Several commentators questioned disregarding family income and uncontested eligibility with regard to maintaining income and calculating co-payment.

Response

   A definition of ''Head Start'' was added to subsection (a). Early Head Start is excluded from the program because the intent of the Head Start Supplemental Assistance legislation was to limit the program to traditional Head Start children who are old enough for a preschool program on a school year calendar. Head Start includes at-risk children, 3 years of age or older but under 5 years of age.

   The requirements of the Head Start expansion program are specified in the act of December 23, 2003 (P. L. 304, No. 48) (24 P. S. §§ 15-1501-D--15-1506-D), known as the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program Law. The program assures that the child enrolled in Head Start is permitted to complete the program year and benefit from the quality services provided by Head Start. The objective is to assure that children who are enrolled in Head Start receive these same services, if needed by virtue of parental employment, during an expanded Head Start day. The Federal Head Start income guidelines set the core eligibility income standard at 100% of the FPIG with minor exceptions primarily designed to serve children with disabilities.

§ 3041.51(b). Head Start expansion program

   Clarification was made to explain that a child who is enrolled in a Head Start program, whose parent needs extended hours or days of care beyond the hours or days provided by the Head Start program to work, is eligible for subsidy.

§ 3041.51(d). Head Start expansion program

   One commentator disagreed with the provision in subsection (d) allowing other children in the family to be eligible for the Head Start expansion program.

Response

   The provision allowing other children in the family to be automatically eligible for the Head Start expansion program was deleted.

   Clarification was made to assure consistency with the employment requirements for other parents who access subsidized child care.

§ 3041.51(e). Head Start expansion program

   One commentator questioned if the provision in subsection (e) limits parent choice.

Response

   This provision does not limit parent choice. A parent may select a child care facility among those that are legally operating in this Commonwealth.

§ 3041.51(f). Head Start expansion program

   Two commentators opposed permitting families to pay the lowest co-payment, regardless of family size and income.

Response

   The language was amended to assure that co-payment is assessed based on family size and income. Clarification was added that the parent must report work loss within 10 days following the loss. Clarification was that a parent must report when a child is no longer enrolled in Head Start within 10 calendar days following the end of enrollment.

§ 3041.51(h). Head Start expansion program

   Clarification was added to permit the family to remain in the program for 60 calendar days following the loss of work.

§ 3041.51(i). Head Start expansion program

   Clarification was added to allow the parent or a reliable source confirmed by the eligibility agency to report the end of a child's Head Start enrollment, in addition to the Head Start program.

§ 3041.52. Prekindergarten program

   Six commentators, including PCCC, support the prekindergarten program. Four commentators oppose the prekindergarten program, stating parents with unlimited resources may access this program regardless of parent income.

Response

   The prekindergarten program has proven to be a successful school-readiness program. It is beneficial to parents and children to receive full-day continuation of the quality services that the child receives in the prekindergarten program.

§ 3041.52(a). Prekindergarten program

   Two commentators questioned if this provision limits parent choice. The House Committee and one commentator stated the requirement for nonprofit child care centers to receive a certificate of compliance from the Department exceeds the Department's statutory authority. One commentator questioned if the requirement excludes in-home care. One commentator suggested that the requirement to select a licensed private academic school is not in accordance with the Private Academic Schools Act (act) (24 P. S. §§ 6701--6721) that exempts religious schools from licensure by the Department of Education.

Response

   This requirement does not limit parent choice. A parent may select a child care center among those that are legally operating in this Commonwealth. The Department does not exceed its statutory authority in requiring a certificate of compliance for nonprofit child care centers. The Department requires that child care subsidy be provided in legally-operated child care centers. In accordance with sections 901--922 and 1001--1080 and the Public Welfare Code and § 20.21(a), both profit and nonprofit child care centers must be certified to operate in this Commonwealth.

   This requirement excludes in-home care since such homes do not provide prekindergarten programs.

   The requirement to select a licensed private academic school is not in violation of the act that exempts religious schools from licensure by the Department of Education. The Department acknowledges that in accordance with section 5 of the act, a bona fide religious school is exempt from licensure as a private academic school. However, for the same reason that a religious school for kindergarten through grade 12 cannot be granted public funding, a religious prekindergarten program cannot be granted public funding.

§ 3041.52(d). Prekindergarten program

   Clarification was added that the parent must report work loss within 10 days following the loss. Clarification was added that a parent must report when a child is no longer enrolled in prekindergarten within 10 calendar days following the end of enrollment. Additional clarifications were made to make this section comparable with § 3041.51 (relating to Head Start expansion program).

§ 3041.52(g). Prekindergarten program

   Clarification was added to permit the family to remain in the program for 60 calendar days following the loss of work.

§§ 3041.61--3041.71. Verification (redesignated as §§ 3041.61--3041.78. Self-certification and verification)

   Nine commentators, including PCCC, supported the simplification of verification requirements that make documentation easier for parents. One commentator suggested requiring verification of the child's age and the child's relationship to the parent from verification requirements.

Response

   A child's age is self-certified in § 3041.63(b)(1).

   Section 3041.63 and §§ 3041.72 and 3041.78 (relating to verification of family size and composition; and verification of care and control) were added to clarify acceptable verification.

   With the addition of § 3041.63, several subsequent sections were renumbered as §§ 3041.64--3041.67. Proposed §§ 3041.67 and 3041.68 were deleted. Section 3041.68 (relating to verification of involuntary loss of work, education or training) was added. Proposed §§ 3041.70 and 3041.71 were combined into § 3041.70 (relating to verification of inability to work due to a disability). Sections §§ 3041.71--3041.78 were added.

§ 3041.61. General verification requirements

   One commentator questioned the requirement that the eligibility agency must help the parent obtain verification, stating that the parent's responsibility to submit verification will become the responsibility of the eligibility agency.

Response

   The parent is the primary source of verification. If a parent is unable to obtain verification, the eligibility agency should assist the parent in obtaining the verification necessary to establish or maintain eligibility.

   Clarification was added in subsection (d) that the eligibility agency may not impose more strict verification requirements during initial determination or redetermination of eligibility for subsidized child care. Subsection (e) was deleted because the intent of the requirement is stated at § 3041.127(a) (relating to parent and caretaker report of change). Subsection (e) was added to clarify that the eligibility agency must obtain consent from the parent and the parent's spouse permitting the eligibility agency to obtain verification of eligibility information. Subsection (f) was revised and relocated to new subsection (i). Subsection (f) was added to clarify that the eligibility agency must retain a signed consent in the family's file. Subsection (g) was revised and relocated to new subsection (h). Subsection (g) was added to clarify the consent remains in effect for as long as the family receives subsidy. Subsection (h) was deleted for clarity. Subsection (i) was revised and relocated to § 3041.64(b) (relating to self-declaration).

§ 3041.62. Collateral contact

   Clarification was added to subsections (b) and (g) to clarify sources of collateral contact and to verify care and control of a child in a family headed by an aunt, uncle or grandparent.

§ 3041.63. Self-declaration (redesignated at § 3041.64)

   This section was revised and relocated to § 3041.64. Changes were made to clarify the options of self-certification or self-declaration.

§ 3041.63. Self-certification (new on final-form)

   This section was added to relocate and consolidate the eligibility requirements that a parent may self-certify for clarity and ease of use.

§ 3041.64. Verification of income (redesignated at § 3041.65)

   Four commentators suggested using 4 weeks of pay stubs.

Response

   The section was amended to use 4 weeks of pay stubs, which will result in more accurate computation for parents who are paid monthly, semimonthly or biweekly.

§ 3041.65. Verification of residence (redesignated at § 3041.66)

   IRRC suggested that a parent self-declare residency status.

Response

   The section was revised from allowing a parent to self-certify to requiring a parent to self-declare residency status.

§ 3041.67. Verification of immunization (redesignated at § 3041.63(b)(3))

   This requirement was revised to allow a parent to self-certify a child's immunization status.

§ 3041.68. Verification of citizenship (redesignated at § 3041.63(b)(2))

   This requirement was revised to allow a parent to self-certify a child's citizenship.

§ 3041.68. Verification of involuntary loss of work, education or training (new on final-form)

   Section 3041.68 was added to clarify acceptable verification of involuntary loss of work, education or training.

§ 3041.70. Verification of temporary inability to work (retitled as Verification of inability to work due to a disability)

   This section was revised to clarify acceptable verification of inability to work due to a disability.

§ 3041.71. Verification of permanent inability to work (redesignated as § 3041.70)

   This section was combined with proposed § 3041.70, placing in one section all provisions for verification of inability to work due to a disability.

§ 3041.85. Record retention

   Two commentators opposed increasing the record retention period from 4 years to 7 years, indicating that the requirement increases the burden on eligibility agencies to obtain additional storage space. IRRC questioned the reason for the increase.

Response

   The record retention requirement was reduced by 1 year. Records must be retained for 6 years from the end of the fiscal year in which the record was created or was last effective. This record retention requirement is necessary for compliance with Federal regulations implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, specifically 45 CFR 164.530(j) (relating to administrative requirements). This requirement is consistent with other Department requirements regarding retention of records.

   The definition of ''fiscal year'' was relocated from § 3041.3 because the term appears only in this section.

§§ 3041.91--3041.94. Domestic violence waivers

   Four commentators supported the provisions for families dealing with domestic violence. PCCC requested a new section regarding verification of domestic violence.

Response

   Section 3041.75 (relating to verification of domestic violence) was added.

§ 3041.91. General requirements (retitled as General domestic violence waiver requirements)

   Subsection (d) was deleted since it is duplicative of proposed subsection (f). Subsection (g) was deleted because it conflicts with the requirements in new subsection (e). Subsection (h) was deleted since it is not necessary to verify the reasons for granting a domestic violence waiver. A parent can provide a court order, a third party verification or a self-affirmation.

§ 3041.94. Notice of waiver determination

   Subsection (a) was revised and language was added to clarify that, at the request of the parent, the eligibility agency must mail the notice to an alternate address or hand-deliver the notice to the parent.

§ 3041.101. General co-payment requirements

   IRRC noted inconsistencies between subsection  (e), which states that a co-payment is due on the first day of the family's first full service week, and § 3041.104(f) (relating to parent or caretaker co-payment requirements) which states that a co-payment is due on the first day of the service week.

Response

   Subsection (e) was revised to clarify that the family co-payment is due on the first day of the service week and each week thereafter, regardless of the day the parent enrolls the child.

§ 3041.102. Department's payment

   One commentator opposed a family being ineligible for care if the weekly payment to the provider is less than $5, stating this may place an unnecessary burden on the eligible family to pay the extra amount or to choose another provider.

Response

   The definition of ''payment rate'' was relocated from § 3041.3 for clarity because the term appears only in this section.

   This provision is consistent with the current regulation and has proven to be effective and nonburdensome on the family.

§ 3041.103. Adjusted co-payment for prospective work, education or training (retitled as Adjusted co-payment for prospective work)

   One commentator opposed the requirement that a partial redetermination must be conducted within 10 calendar days following notification and suggested that the time period should be extended until the parent has received 1 month to 6 weeks of pay.

Response

   If the partial redetermination is delayed, a potential exists for an 8-week period in which the parent would not make a co-payment. Payment of a co-payment contributes to the cost of child care and is an essential element of the subsidized child care system.

   Language was revised and added to subsection (c) from § 3041.45(a) (relating to anticipating income) to clarify how the family co-payment is determined when a single parent who applies for subsidy and reports prospective work. Language was revised and added to subsection (d) from § 3041.45(b) to clarify how the family co-payment is determined when a single parent who receives subsidy involuntarily loses work and reports prospective work.

§ 3041.106. Eligibility agency responsibilities (retitled as Eligibility agency responsibilities regarding co-payment)

   One commentator suggested clarification that care will continue without interruption when a delinquent co-payment is paid by the date in the notice. One commentator opposed the requirement permitting a parent to reapply when delinquent co-payments have been satisfied in full.

Response

   Subsection (c) was revised to clarify that service will be terminated following the report of a delinquent co-payment, unless the delinquent co-payment is paid by the date set forth on the written notice.

   Enrollment will not be authorized until delinquent co-payments are paid, although the parent may reapply at any time.

   Subsection (f) was added to clarify that the eligibility agency must provide a handbook explaining the rights and responsibilities of the subsidized child care program to each parent who applies for subsidized child care.

§ 3041.108(a)(2). Co-payment for families headed by a parent

   One commentator opposed waiving a co-payment, stating that all families should pay the minimum co-payment in all circumstances.

Response

   A parent who begins work does not have the resources to pay a co-payment until the parent receives his first pay.

§ 3041.109. Co-payment for families headed by a caretaker

   One commentator supported the requirement. Two commentators stated there is an inequity with the requirement for families headed by a parent and that all co-payments must be assessed based on family size and income.

Response

   This section has been revised. Co-payments for all families will be determined in accordance with Appendix B (relating to co-payment chart family co-payment scale).

§ 3041.122(c). Initial determination of eligibility

   Clarification was added that a family is eligible retroactive to the date the family submitted a signed application if the eligibility agency has received all information necessary to complete the application and the verification provided by the parent establishes eligibility.

§ 3041.123. Effective date of coverage

   One commentator opposed making eligibility and payment for child care retroactive to the date of the signed application, stating the date of the signed application does not indicate that the parent is working or is otherwise eligible on that date.

Response

   The date the parent signed the application is the date that the parent certified a need for care and retroactive authorization is permissible only when the parent has submitted all information needed to establish eligibility.

§ 3041.126. Face-to-face interview

   One commentator suggested permitting a family to claim an extension from the face-to-face timeframe requirement based on hardship and suggested increasing the time period to more than 30 days for all families.

Response

   The majority of parents come to the eligibility agency within the initial 30-day time period. The provision for a 30-day extension benefits the limited number of parents who are unable to meet the time frame. Subsections (a) and (d) were revised to clarify the timeframes related to a face-to-face interview and the hardship extension for the face-to-face interview.

§ 3041.127. Parent and caretaker report of change

   Subsection  (a)(3) was deleted and clarification was added that a parent must report a change in the number of days or hours for which subsidy is needed.

§ 3041.128. Review of changes

   The language was revised to clarify that when a parent reports a change that may result in a decrease in the family co-payment, the eligibility agency must review the change and complete a partial redetermination.

§ 3041.129(a). Partial redetermination based on reported changes

   Clarification was added that a co-payment is not reassessed during a partial redetermination.

§ 3041.130. Redetermination of eligibility

   The House Committee suggested a phase-out program when an applicant is no longer eligible for subsidized child care. The House Committee suggested that when a parent is determined ineligible for subsidized child care, eligibility would continue for another 6-month period with a decreasing co-payment that is phased-out over a period of time. This would provide a more user-friendly system that would support family self-sufficiency.

   Several commentators, including PCCC, opposed the requirement for 6-month redeterminations of eligibility and stated that a 12-month redetermination process would reduce barriers and paperwork for parents.

Response

   Although a phase-out program would be consistent with the policy framework underlying the final-form rulemaking and would help to ease transition, a phase-out program would violate the CCDF guidelines, due to the Federal requirement to base the co-payment on family size and income. The Department would be in violation of the established FPIG published in the Department's regulation. The FPIG is used to determine the family co-payment, based on Federal guidelines for family size and income. In addition, a phase-out as recommended would not benefit the family because the family should pay a higher co-payment to ease transition to the actual cost of care when the family is no longer eligible for subsidized child care. If the parent pays a lower co-payment, the parent would face a larger increase in child care costs once the parent no longer receives subsidized child care.

   Determination of eligibility for ''assistance'' is required every 6 months in section 432.2(c) of the Public Welfare Code. The definition of ''assistance'' in section 402 of the Public Welfare Code includes ''money and services,'' which includes subsidized child care. The scope of the semiannual review will be limited to key eligibility factors and a simplified process that is less time-consuming than a full review of eligibility status.

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