Senate approves DiMario’s bill to remove restrictions on child care assistance recipients


STATE HOUSE — The Senate today voted to approve Sen. Alana M. DiMario’s bill to allow more qualified Rhode Islanders to receive child care assistance by removing burdensome requirements that recipients cooperate with the Office of Child Support Services to establish paternity and enforce child support orders for children receiving child care assistance.

Many parents do not want to establish paternity or enforce a child support order because they have good reasons to not engage with an absent parent. For example, it may be unsafe to have this person in their life and the requirement to establish paternity or enforce a child support order may force them to choose between putting their family at risk or forgoing the child care assistance they would otherwise qualify for,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham). “Removing these requirements and providing high quality child care to those who qualify, no strings attached, will take an unnecessary burden off of families who need assistance and allow these parents the choice to continue their education or enter the workforce.”

This legislation (2024-S 2459) would remove the current requirement that the parents or caretakers applying to the Department of Human Services for child care assistance cooperate in establishing paternity and in enforcing child support orders for any children they are applying for assistance for. Under this legislation, they would still be able to choose to use the Office of Child Support Services’ resources to establish parentage, a child support or medical order, or to enforce that order, but this would no longer be a condition to quality for child care assistance.

“Advocates have been working on this for years and we are thrilled to see the Senate advance Senator DiMario’s bill to repeal the burdensome Child Support Enforcement requirement from the RI Child Care Assistance Program,” said Leanne Barrett, senior policy analyst at Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and coordinator of the Right from the Start Campaign. “Only nine states impose this eligibility requirement for Child Care Assistance, which is not in place for any other early care and education program.”

Said Senator DiMario, “These requirements limit workforce participation by preventing Rhode Islanders who would otherwise qualify for child care assistance from receiving it. Ironically, this workforce shortage is especially acute in the child care industry, where managers tell us they consistently lose employees who cannot afford child care themselves and are unable to claim the subsidies they qualify for because of the requirement to cooporate in establishing paternity and enforcing child support orders.”

The bill now heads to the House for consideration where Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) has introduced companion legislation (2024-H 7122).