Serious Growing Pains
The issue of the Benefind system in Kentucky has a been a struggle for providers and low-income families since early October 2017. Issues of long hold times for the call center exceeding 1 hour, 6-8 hour wait-times in local Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) Offices, and missing contracts. The transition was planned in early August 2017, as providers received notice but the letter, instructed providers to keep administering services. As services were given, centers attempted to report missing childcare contracts, unreceived payments, and termination letters but no response was given from the Division of Regulated Childcare until one provider was determined for her story to be heard. Asia Rivers, of Rivers Educational Center reported closing its doors to its new location, Rivers Educational Center 2 in South Louisville due to major problems with its state funding. There are always unexpected situations that happen in childcare but if you’re giving out services without getting paid in a timely manner, even credit isn’t enough to keep payroll checks issued, food for the children, materials for new learning experiences, or even the lights on. In this specific case, Rivers Educational Center 2 had ran through its reserve money for 90 days. Normally its 45 days for payment to be received, but a new center relies heavily on working capital. While still awaiting proper dates on contracts, and funds to be disbursed, a ceiling collapsed ultimately ending business operations. No money means no repairs.
What’s a Childcare Owner to do?
Many other providers saw themselves in similar situations due to limited cashflow. Owners had to take out several loans to clear payroll checks or even shutdown for days because food costs would be an issue. Childcare employees had trouble securing their own childcare assistance from CCAP. Childcare teachers failed to report to work because of the long wait-times at DCBS Offices. Childcare in Kentucky had began to turn into a crisis. Throughout the process, the childcare assistance program (CCAP) & the Division of Regulated Childcare (DRCC) remained silent. Silence due to no cries being heard from the public, the correct way. Once the news story aired. Everyone assumed it was shots fired. The true intention was to get someone’s attention. And it caught eveyone’s attention at the state office. Asia Rivers and Rivers Educational Center became public enemy number one because they wanted to help families and providers across Kentucky. Should they be at risk for losing their businesses because of a transition solely targeted to reduce fraud and to save 7.1 million dollars annually? Were they expected to break relationships with families because they qualified for the childcare assistance program? All the questions were answered by silence until a state meeting held with the previous contract holder, The Childcare Council & DRCC. The session lasted about 30 minutes of pointing fingers but no one had a solution, yet. No one forced a solution. But there were no friends for Mrs.Rivers involving the situation.
Where We Are Headed
In the process, certain providers such as Asia Rivers, the owner and director of Rivers Educational Center, continued to advocate at the state’s capital for providers. The Rivers Educational Center PTA, which is a 501c3 instructed several parents from the community to call the Ombudsman, the governor, and even contact the Department for Community Based Services. Even Facebook posts were made so it could bring awareness, that children may not have a place to return once the transition was over. After the spotlight in the news, special teams were created at the state level to help centers recoup money that had been lost in the transition. A provider line was created for providers to access certain information about a family’s case, and now the latest and most beneficial piece has been created.
According to the Kentucky: Cabinet for Health and Family Services website, “Beginning May 5, providers will be able to access child care documents concerning child enrollments through the Provider Portal. Documents such as child care certificates, notices of change and termination notices will be available to be viewed and printed. Initial child care certificates can be signed and uploaded through the Provider Portal to Benefind for workers to process. A tip sheet will be available on this site by May 5 to give further instruction.”
Here’s to Continued Progress
The strides that the Cabinet is making for Kentucky providers to access reliable information is huge. In the beginning of the Benefind transition, termination notices were sent to providers a month after services had been given to families. This causes financial stress and a financial burden on families that are low-income. It also places a financial stress on small business owners due to lack of cashflow. If a childcare center receives any funding from the state of Kentucky, there is about a 45 day hold over before a center receives reimbursement money. Some families lost their childcare services due to past due balances in which the state would’ve normally been responsible for paying. Even families applying for childcare assistance never received applications due to a mailroom issue. These families lost out on job opportunities because the childcare system stalled.
In conclusion, “I fully support the stride that the state is making to assist providers in the transition”, says Asia Rivers. “It definitely helps families maintain continuity of care their children, and decrease the risk of job loss stemming with loss of childcare.” As always, if you have a question or comment, contact TALK CHILDCARE TO ME LLC.