Rhode Island KIDS COUNT - News, Research and Policy Information
February 3, 2009
Health Insurance
President Obama to Sign Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Bill 
In a major victory for children's health coverage, President Obama will sign the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. EST.
The SCHIP program currently provides health insurance for 6.7 million children. The 2009 SCHIP reauthorization protects coverage for these children, expands SCHIP to include an additional 4 million children who would otherwise be uninsured and provides funding for outreach and enrollment activities. The bill eliminates the five-year waiting period and provides federal matching funds for immigrant children who are legal permanent residents. Estimated allotments for Rhode Island project an increase in federal SCHIP funding from $13.5 million to $69.5 million. For updates on SCHIP visit the New England Alliance for Children's Health website.
Federal Economic Recovery Bill
Selected Provisions Affecting Children and Families Nationally and in Rhode Island
Last week the House passed an $825 billion economic recovery package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. An $888 billion package was passed by key Senate committees last week and contains roughly $366 billion in spending and $522 billion in tax cuts. The provisions in the Senate package are not identical to the House version. Both the Senate and House bills propose increased funding for many important programs affecting children and families. 

Some key provisions of the House version include the following:
-A temporary increase in the share of the Medicaid program funded by the federal government which could amount to $454 million to Rhode Island over the next two years.
- A "State Stabilization Fund" to restore state education cuts which could provide Rhode Island and local school districts with an additional $132 million over two years.

 - Increased funding to local school districts through a number of existing education programs which for Rhode Island could translate to over $48 million in Title I money, almost $48 million in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds, and almost $54 million in funds for school construction, renovation, and modernization.

- $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Rhode Island would receive an additional $5.2 million, allowing the state to provide child care assistance for 670 more children in low-income working families.

- $2.1 billion for Head Start funding to help states serve more preschoolers in Head Start and more infants and toddlers in Early Head Start.

- An increase in the maximum food stamp benefit and increased funding to states to manage the increase in food stamp caseloads expected during the recession. The maximum food stamp benefit for Rhode Islanders would increase by $52, and the state would receive an additional $1 million for administrative costs over a four-year period.

- Additional funds for homelessness prevention activities, such as rental assistance, housing relocation assistance, and security deposits. Rhode Island would receive an estimated $7 million in funds, allowing the state to help 1,100 households avoid homelessness.
-Reductions in the income threshold required for the Child Tax Credit. The current income threshold is $8,500, and the House proposes a reduction to $0, while the Senate proposes a reduction to $6,000. Both proposals would allow more low-income households to claim a child tax credit.

- The establishment of an "Emergency Contingency Fund for State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" (TANF) to provide matching grants to states with caseload expansions.
Early Care and Education
BrightStars Quality Rating and Improvement System Launched
The BrightStars
quality rating and improvement system, managed by the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, has begun to be implemented in child care centers and preschools across Rhode Island. Programs can use the accurate, reliable information about quality to support improvements, including staff training and development. Family child care homes and school-age programs will be phased into the rating system over the next year. Programs can apply for a quality rating and sign up to receive updates at www.brightstars.org
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In This Issue
star President Obama to Sign Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Bill
star Federal Economic Recovery Bill: Selected Provisions Affecting Children and Families Nationally and in RI
star BrightStars Quality Rating and Improvement System Launched
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Rhode Island KIDS COUNT works to improve the health, education, safety, economic security and development of Rhode Island's children.