Settlement settlement ensures little one care help is extra accessible to NM households
Today, the New Mexico Department of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECECD), as well as several New Mexico parents and OLÉ – a grassroots nonprofit working family organization – announced that they have reached a settlement agreement that will expand access to the state childcare program and require that it is more responsive to the needs of parents.
The parents and OLÉ are represented by the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty (NMCLP).
The settlement agreement resolves a 2018 lawsuit filed during the previous administration alleging that the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD), which then housed childcare services, refused to provide childcare to eligible families.
CYFD and plaintiffs began resolving the issues raised in the lawsuit and concluded an initial settlement agreement in spring 2019. After Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico State Legislature established the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care in 2019, the Childcare Service Office was merged into the new department along with all other early childhood programs. ECEC became the responding agency to the lawsuit after the department officially launched in July 2020 and is committed to working with NMCLP and OLÉ to fully address the issues identified in the families’ lawsuit.
“This regulation reflects the childcare system that parents, with Secretary Groginsky, are building for all New Mexicans,” said Alma Martell, a parenting guide at OLÉ Preschool, much easier, kinder and more similar to paying than we would expect from a high-quality early education system. “
“It is clear that Secretary Groginsky and the division are committed to expanding access and improving childcare for families in New Mexico,” said Tim Davis, attorney at the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. “The department has carefully sought and listened to parents, and the program improvements reflect this collaboration and the reality of working families. The department has made truly groundbreaking changes, recognizing that quality, affordable childcare is a bridge to opportunity for families and their children. ”
“ECEC is committed to ensuring that every eligible family in New Mexico has childcare assistance in a fair, equitable, and transparent manner,” said ECEC Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky. “Access to quality early childhood education is critical to the development of our young children and is critical to the economic stability of our families. In the nine months since our department officially launched, we’ve worked to change the rules to make it easier for families to apply for assistance. We waived all parental co-payments until July 2022 and continued to look for ways to extend the eligibility for childcare support to families in our state. ”
The terms set out in the Settlement Agreement include:
- Maintain eligibility for families with incomes 250% or less of the federal poverty line unless the ministry decreases eligibility through a regulatory process with a public contribution.
- By August 2021 or earlier, ECEC will ensure that participating families know when and why a change is being made to their childcare case. The notices will also clearly explain why childcare is being refused or terminated and provide information on how to appeal the decision. ECEC has already taken important steps to meet this requirement.
- By December 31, 2021, ECEC will make the final updates to its childcare regulations so that families have correct information about their benefits during the application process, which will improve access to childcare with minimal administrative burdens.
- ECEC will train all staff on the changes and changes to notices that have already started and will continue as ECEC fulfills its settlement obligations.
- ECEC will hold meetings with participating families for three years and then meet with claimants to discuss feedback and possible remedial action for next steps.
- ECEC does not have to pay legal fees as long as it complies with the provisions of the settlement.
The settlement agreement builds on other key changes ECEC made to the recent childcare support program to expand access, including providing benefits for jobseeking parents, streamlining income rules and increasing eligibility for families with one Income of up to 250% of federal poverty This ends the exclusion of doctoral students and the parents are no longer forced to demand child benefit from an absent parent in order to be entitled to support.
Currently, one in three families in New Mexico is eligible for free or discounted childcare tuition through ECEC childcare services. Families can find out about eligibility and apply for assistance at https://eligibility.ececd.state.nm.us/eligibility/public/home.page?dswid=-4195
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