WSR 11-05-088

EMERGENCY RULES

DEPARTMENT OF

EARLY LEARNING

[ Filed February 15, 2011, 4:06 p.m. , effective March 1, 2011 ]


Effective Date of Rule: March 1, 2011.

Purpose: The department of early learning (DEL) is amending working connections child care (WCCC) and seasonal child care (SCC) program[s], WAC 170-290-0001 Purpose and intent. The amended rule establishes parameters of actions that DEL and the department of social and health services (DSHS) are authorized to take on an emergency basis to limit consumer entry into the WCCC program in order to reduce program expenditures and prevent exhausting available funds for the state's WorkFirst program prior to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2011. If WorkFirst funds are exhausted prior to June 30, the state faces a broad termination of child care benefits for families currently receiving WCCC subsidies, with serious disruptive impacts for children, parents, child care providers, and employers.

Agency actions may include one or more of the following: Limiting or closing enrollment into WCCC; establishing priority lists of new WCCC enrollees subject to applicable state and federal law; or creating and maintaining WCCC waiting lists.

Citation of Existing Rules Affected by this Order: Amending WAC 170-290-0001.

Statutory Authority for Adoption: RCW 43.215.060 and 43.215.070.

Other Authority: Chapter 43.215 RCW.

Under RCW 34.05.350 the agency for good cause finds that immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety, or general welfare, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary to the public interest; and that in order to implement the requirements or reductions in appropriations enacted in any budget for fiscal years 2009, 2010, or 2011, which necessitates the need for the immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary to the fiscal needs or requirements of the agency.

Reasons for this Finding: DEL remains under directives from the governor to reduce child care subsidy expenditures to help close a projected $82 million shortfall in the state fiscal year (SFY) 2011 budget for the state's WorkFirst program. WorkFirst is the state's various "welfare-to-work" programs, including WCCC subsidies for parents who are working or participating in certain education, training or other approved activities.

Approximately 35,800 families in Washington state are enrolled in WCCC and receive child care subsidy assistance currently, at a monthly cost of more than $25.5 million. If WCCC enrollment continues at this rate, the department will not meet its spending reduction targets necessary to prevent a WorkFirst deficit in SFY 2011.

The department has filed a series of emergency rules in September and December 2010 and in January 2011 (WSR 10-20-032, 11-01-114, 11-03-046, and 11-04-078) intended to reduce WCCC enrollment and expenditures. While these actions have reduced WCCC expenditures significantly, DEL and DSHS* must prepare to take additional actions to limit entry into WCCC as necessary to prevent a WorkFirst deficit.

Failure to limit consumer entry into WCCC by emergency rule would result in the program becoming oversubscribed and over budget, because of insufficient revenues to pay program benefits and higher than anticipated WorkFirst caseloads. If that occurs, the state could be faced with terminating child care benefits to all families receiving WCCC benefits, with serious disruptive impacts to children, families, child care providers, employers and the public welfare.

Washington state's economic situation remains unstable into the foreseeable future. Current forecasts indicate that revenues will be insufficient to meet state general fund appropriations in the 2010-2011 Supplemental Operating Budget Act, ESSB 6444 (chapter 37, Laws of 2010 1st sp. sess.). The level of federal aid that the legislature had anticipated receiving to help balance the WorkFirst budget has not materialized.

As tax and federal revenues have declined sharply, WorkFirst case loads continue to climb. In the last two years the state's WorkFirst caseload has grown by more than thirty percent, from 51,106 cases in July 2008 to 66,634 cases in June 2010. Caseloads are expected to grow further.

On September 13, 2010, Governor Gregoire formally declared that a budget shortfall is imminent and directed state agencies to implement 6.3 percent across-the-board spending cuts to avoid an SFY 2011 deficit. See Executive Order 10-04 - Ordering Expenditure Reductions in Allotments of State General Fund Appropriations.

In December 2010, the legislature met in emergency special session to adopt $282 million in SFY 2011 spending reductions (HB 3225). And in February 2011, the legislature enacted a supplemental operating budget bill (ESHB 1086) that cut an additional $254 million in state spending through June 30, 2011.

The legislature's anticipated shortfall in the WorkFirst program, combined with the Governor's Executive Order 10-04 and the legislature's emergency spending reductions, demonstrate that an emergency rule is necessary to implement spending reductions, and observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary both to the public interest and to the state's fiscal needs and requirements.

DEL has determined that the rules meet office of financial management guidance 3.c regarding the Governor's Executive Order 10-06 suspending noncritical rule making, but allowing rules to proceed that are "... necessary to manage budget shortfalls, maintain fund solvency, or for revenue generating activities ...."

*DEL and DSHS jointly operate the WCCC program. DEL adopts rules and other WCCC policy. DSHS accepts WCCC applications, determines consumer eligibility, and processes subsidy payments to child care providers.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Comply with Federal Statute: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Federal Rules or Standards: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Recently Enacted State Statutes: New 0, Amended 1, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted at Request of a Nongovernmental Entity: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted on the Agency's Own Initiative: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Clarify, Streamline, or Reform Agency Procedures: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted Using Negotiated Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Pilot Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Other Alternative Rule Making: New 0, Amended 1, Repealed 0.

Date Adopted: February 15, 2011.

Elizabeth M. Hyde

Director


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending WSR 09-22-043, filed 10/28/09, effective 12/1/09)

WAC 170-290-0001   Purpose and intent.   (1) This chapter establishes the requirements for eligible families to receive subsidized child care through the working connections child care (WCCC) and seasonal child care (SCC) programs under applicable state and federal law, to the extent of available funds. As used in chapter 170-290 WAC, "to the extent of available funds" includes one or more of the following:

(a) Limiting or closing enrollment;

(b) Establishing a priority list for new enrollees subject to applicable state and federal law; or

(c) Creating and maintaining a waiting list.

(2) The purpose of WCCC, as provided in part II of this chapter, is to:

(a) Assist eligible families in obtaining child care subsidies for approvable activities that enable them to work, attend training, or enroll in educational programs; and

(b) Consider the health and safety of children while they are in care and receiving child care subsidies.

(3) The purpose of SCC, as provided in part III of this chapter, is to:

(a) Assist eligible families who are seasonally employed in agriculturally related work to pay for licensed child care; and

(b) Consider the health and safety of children while they are in care and receiving child care subsidies.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 43.215.060, 43.215.070, 2006 c 265, and chapter 43.215 RCW. 09-22-043, 170-290-0001, filed 10/28/09, effective 12/1/09. 08-08-047, recodified as 170-290-0001, filed 3/27/08, effective 3/27/08. Statutory Authority: RCW 74.04.050, 74.12.340, 74.13.085, and 2003 1st sp.s. c 25. 04-08-021 and 04-08-134, 388-290-0001, filed 3/29/04 and 4/7/04, effective 5/28/04. Statutory Authority: RCW 74.04.050 and C.F.R. Parts 98 and 99 (Child Care Development Fund Rules). 02-01-135, 388-290-0001, filed 12/19/01, effective 1/19/02.]

Reviser's note: The typographical error in the above section occurred in the copy filed by the agency and appears in the Register pursuant to the requirements of RCW 34.08.040.

Washington State Code Reviser's Office