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Management Bulletin 20-19

Guidance on Family Fees for Fiscal Year 2020-21.

Early Learning and Care Division

Subject: Guidance on Family Fees for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21

Number: 20-19

Date: October 9, 2020

Expires: June 30, 2021

Authority: The 2020–21 Budget Act and Senate Bill (SB) 820 (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020), Education Omnibus Trailer Bill

Attention: Executive Officers and Program Directors of all Early Learning and Care Programs


Purpose

This Management Bulletin (MB) is to notify and provide guidance to state-subsidized early learning and care (ELC) programs on the collection of Family Fees for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020–21 following the enactment of SB 820.

These requirements only apply to FY 2020–21 pursuant to Chapter 24 of the Statutes of 2020.

Background

Education Code (EC) 8273–8273.3 details that the state shall establish a family fee schedule, the assessment of those fees, and the applicable exemptions.

The California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), sections 18108 through 18116 set forth family fee requirements for all ELC programs.

On September 15, 2020, contractors were reminded via an email to subscribers of the Early Learning and Care Division's (ELCD) distribution list that family fees for all families were waived for July and August 2020, pursuant to the Superintendent’s authority provided by EC Section 8209. The email also provided directives for contractors to issue a refund or a credit for future services to families that had paid fees for July and/or August 2020, based on the contractor’s internal policy for refunds/credits of those fees. Further, this email provided interim guidance on upcoming legislation to waive family fees for the months of September 2020 through June 2021, for families not receiving in-person services due to center closure, COVID-19 related limitations, or choosing to shelter-in-place.

On September 18, 2020, the Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 820, which: (1) statutorily waives family fees for all subsidized children in July and August 2020, and provides additional funds to contractors to augment contracts for fees waived; (2) allows families who were disenrolled, either voluntarily or involuntarily, due to delinquent family fees to re-enroll without the need for additional eligibility documentation; (3) waives family fees for September 2020 through June 2021, for families where all children in the family enrolled in care remain at home for ELC distance learning or are sheltering-in-place, and specifies that if additional federal funds are not received, childcare providers will have to absorb those costs.

Policy

All family fees are waived for the months of July and August 2020, and contractors must issue a refund or credit for fees paid during those months, depending upon their internal policy for refunds/credits. Any families disenrolled during this time due to delinquent family fees can be reenrolled without having to provide additional eligibility documentation.

As required by SB 820, family fees are waived from September 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, for families when ALL children in the family enrolled in subsidized ELC programs remain at home: either for distance learning services when the facility is closed, when all currently enrolled children are not able to receive in-person services due to a public health order, or for families sheltering-in-place due to COVID-19.

Directive

Family Fees for July and August 2020

Family fees for all families were waived for July and August 2020. As a reminder, pursuant to EC Section 8227.7, Alternative Payment (AP) contractors are required to notify providers of changes to family fees on the same day the notice is issued to a family. Contractors must issue a refund or a credit for future services to families that have paid fees for July and/or August 2020 services, based on the contractor’s internal policy for refunds/credits of those fees.

For family fees that have already been refunded or credited for future services, contractors are to maintain documentation for review; there is no need to issue an additional written notice. If the AP contractor has not already done so, the AP contractor must share with the provider the Notice of Action (NOA) or other form of communication provided to the family for family fees that have already been refunded or credited.

For family fees not already refunded or credited, contractors must document the waived family fees for July and August, and indicate the action taken to refund family fees or credit for future services. The AP contractor must share with the provider the NOA or other form of communication provided to the family for family fees that will be refunded or credited. The deadline for processing any refunds or credits of family fees for July and August fees is October 31, 2020. Contractors who cannot meet this deadline must contact their ELCD Program Quality Implementation (PQI) Office Regional Consultant, as soon as possible.

Families disenrolled by the contractor or who chose to disenroll due to the imposition of family fees for July and August 2020, can be reinstated if funding and space is available without the need for additional eligibility documentation. These families would receive priority and should be enrolled before any families from the agency’s eligibility list. Contractors must inform these families of the applicability of family fees, starting in September, based upon whether their children are receiving in-person services as set forth below. As always, contractors should continue to work with families to ensure retention of certified childcare services. Any change to the certified need must be based upon a request by the parent in accordance with EC 8263(h).

If contractors do not have available space to reinstate the family’s services, the contractor may attempt to transfer enrollment to another contractor who has availability and, if not possible, refer the family to the local Resource and Referral program for additional subsidized childcare options.

Family Fees for September through June 2021

The SB 820 specifies that family fees are waived for the remainder of the year only for families not receiving in-person services or sheltering-in-place (sheltering in place is defined as a family choosing not to send their child to care because of COVID-19). SB 820 states that family fees will be waived for any months from September 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, for families where all children in the family enrolled in subsidized ELC services remain at home for that month, either for ELC distance learning because of closure of the facility, where all currently enrolled children are not able to receive in-person services due to a public health order, or for families sheltering-in-place. Unlike the family fee waiver policy for July and August 2020, SB 820 is restrictive and does not allow the CDE to waive family fees for all families for September 2020 through June 2021.

Families whose children receive in-person services will continue to pay the family fee per the current NOA on file. Pursuant to CCR 5 Section 18084.2(a) of the 12-Month Eligibility Implementation Guidance issued with Management Bulletin (MB) 17-14, families may at any time request a reassessment of family fees based on income or other changes. This information can be used to reduce family fees, but cannot be used to make any other changes to a family’s service agreement. For instance, families may voluntarily request a reassessment of family fees if they are currently paying a full-time fee, but no longer need full-time care and, therefore, wish to reassess the family fee in order to pay a part-time fee. Family fees will not be adjusted for absences in instances in which a family is certified for full-time care, and intended, at the time of paying the fee, to use in-person services, but does not attend for all of their certified hours in any given month.

As contractors certify or recertify families during this time, they must continue to calculate the appropriate family fee and indicate such fee on the NOA as typically done. The NOA shall indicate the family fee assessed, as well as indicate if there is any waiver to the family fee as set forth below. School-age families should be assessed a vacation schedule and school schedule for family fees at initial enrollment. The family should pay the vacation schedule while receiving full-time in-person ELC services. When the family transitions to in-person TK-12 services, then the family should pay the fees required during the school schedule.

For direct service contractors, if all of the children in a family will not receive in-person services for the month due to a program closure due to COVID-19, all currently enrolled children are not able to receive in-person services due to a public health order, or the family is sheltering in place because of COVID-19, the family fee assessed for that month will be waived. Written documentation should include the effective date(s) of when the family did not receive in-person services and indicate the action taken to refund family fees or credit for future services, if applicable. When the family returns to or begins in-person care, the assessed family fee would begin the first day the family indicates they will return to in-person services and will be calculated as specified in MB 20-13.

The AP contractors and direct service contractors who provide services through a Family Child Care Home Education Network (FCCHEN) should require providers to report dates of closure due to COVID-19 or days in which all of the children in the family are not attending care because of COVID-19 on the attendance record and/or invoice. Written documentation should include the effective date(s) of when the family did not receive in-person services and indicate the action taken to refund family fees or credit for future services. When the family returns to or begins in-person care, the assessed family fee would begin the first day the family indicates they will return to in-person services and will be calculated as specified in MB 20-13.

In instances where a direct service contractor or provider must close unexpectedly including a positive COVID-19 case of an employee or provider or are required to limit in person services in response to a local or public health order or guidance, the family should receive a refund or credit for their family fee as specified below:

  1. When the family paid a full-time or part-time fee as specified on their NOA and the provider was closed for the entire month due to a written state or local public health order or guidance or needed to limit availability for in-person services due to staffing/group size restrictions, the family fees paid for the month of closure should be refunded or credited.
  2. When the family paid a full-time fee at the beginning of the month as specified on their NOA, but the provider was unexpectedly closed due to a written state or local public health order or guidance or needed to limit availability for in-person services due to staffing/group size restrictions, the family should be refunded or credited the difference between the full-time fee and the part-time fee, if the hours of in-person service due to the closure were less than 130 hours.

If part-time fees were paid at the beginning of the month and the direct service contractor or provider was closed unexpectedly or suddenly had to limit in person services due to staffing/group size restrictions, as long as some in-person care was provided, the part-time fees would still be applicable.

As a result, contractors will need to determine on a monthly basis whether any credit or refund (depending on contractor policy) is necessary to families based on the amount of in-person services received when the contractor or provider has closed for some period of time or the family has not received in person services due to imposed COVID-19 restrictions on group size or ratios. If a credit is necessary, the credit should be applied to the month following the determination of the refund or credit.

Families on Delinquent Family Fee Plans

For families that have a delinquent family fee plan, contractors should have placed the plan on hold for the months of July and August 2020. Families should not have been terminated due to outstanding fees owed for those months or while repayment plans were on hold. Families disenrolled by the contractor due to delinquent family fees during a period in which family fees are waived can be reinstated. If contractors do not have available space to reinstate the family’s services, the contractor may attempt to transfer their enrollment to a contractor with availability and, if unable to do so, refer the family to the local Resource and Referral program for additional subsidized childcare options. Delinquent family fee plans, including outstanding fees for March, will resume in September 2020, for families attending in person care. Families sheltering in place or receiving distance learning services due to COVID-19 must pay outstanding fees or resume payment plans when the family returns to in person care. Family fees waived for July and August 2020, will not be included in the delinquent family fee plan. Families that wish to pay off any outstanding family fee balance during the period in which family fees are waived may do so and such amount shall be credited to their account.

Contractor Reporting and Reimbursement

The Child Development and Nutrition Fiscal Services (CDNFS) attendance and fiscal reports have been revised to allow CDE to collect information on the amount of family fees waived. All contractors will be required to report the amount of family fees collected and the amount of family fees that were assessed but waived, under the circumstances provided in the directive above, beginning with the September 2020, report period, due on October 20, 2020. Reporting fees according to this directive will ensure the CDE is reimbursing contractors accurately.

Contractors will report the amount of family fees collected on the line Family Fees Collected for Certified Children (September–June). Contractors are reminded that family fees reported on the line Family Fees Collected for Certified Children (September–June) must be based on the amount of fees the contractor expects to collect in the report month, regardless of when the revenue is actually received.

Two new lines have been added to the CDNFS Fiscal Reports entitled, Waived Family Fees for Certified Children (July and August) and Waived Family Fees for Certified Children (September–June). For FY 2020–21, all contractors must report the amount of family fees that were assessed, but waived between July 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, on the line Waived Family Fees for Certified Children (July and August). Family fees that were assessed, but waived between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 will be reported on the line Waived Family Fees for Certified Children (September–June). Any amount reported on these lines should represent the amount of fees that would have been collected from families if family fees had not been waived.

Contractors who have previously submitted a July and August report through the Child Development Provider Accounting Reporting Information System (CPARIS), and did not include the amount of family fees that were waived, should submit a revision to their previously submitted report. Contractors who report fiscal information through the Alternative Payment/CalWORKs Online Reporting System may reflect any revisions in the prior period of the September 2020 report.

The SB 820 provides additional funds to cover family fees for July and August. Contractors will receive an augmentation to their contract to cover the family fees waived in July and August 2020.

Reimbursement for family fee waivers beyond August 2020, for families receiving ELC distance learning or sheltering in place, is contingent on receiving additional federal funds. At this time, no additional federal funds have been provided. Per SB 820, direct service contractors, AP providers, and FCCHEN providers shall absorb the cost of the family fee waivers. Assuming no federal funds are forthcoming, absorption of the family fee waivers for September 2020 through June 2021, will be implemented as follows:

  • Direct service contractors will not receive reimbursement through their contract to cover the cost of the family fee waiver, and therefore must consider the cost of waiving family fees when estimating revenue and expenditures to ensure expenditures do not exceed their total contract amount.
  • AP contractors who collect family fees directly will not receive reimbursement through their contract to cover the cost of the family fee waiver and therefore will adjust the amount reimbursed to the provider by the amount of family fees that would have been collected if fees were not waived. For example, if a provider typically is reimbursed $700 and the contractor collects $50 in family fees directly from the family, the contractor normally reimburses the provider $700. However, the reimbursement to the provider will now be $650 for the months of September 2020 through June 2021.
  • AP providers that typically collect the family fee will receive reimbursement from their AP contractor as usual, but will not collect the fee from the family. For example, if a provider typically collects $30 in family fees directly from the family and is reimbursed $600 from the AP contractor, the provider’s total income is $630. For the months of September 2020 through June 2021, the reimbursement to the provider will continue to be $600 from the AP contractor, but the provider will no longer collect $30 from the family.

Per SB 820, if additional federal funds are made available, up to $30 million will be allocated to reimburse childcare providers for family fees waived for families enrolled, but not receiving in-person care, from September 2020 and June 2021.

Resources

State Guidelines--CDE and ELCD-Specific

The CDE, ELCD has developed a COVID-19 guidance and resource page that includes answers to frequently asked questions, all management bulletins issued to implement pertinent legislation, and other relevant resources at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/elcdcovid19.asp.

To be informed of updated information, please sign up for ELCD's email list at https://www/cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/ci/progspeclist.asp.

The CDE has developed a guidebook for the safe reopening of California’s public schools, which can be found at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/documents/strongertogether.pdf.

Social and Physical Distancing Guidance and Healthy Practices for ELC Facilities

All contractors must follow healthy and safe practices and adhere to local and state public health orders in all early learning or childcare settings.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued public health guidance regarding cohorts/small groups of children in licensed and license exempt childcare settings, and before and after school programs. The CDPH guidance can be accessed at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/small-groups-child-youth.aspx.

The CDE worked collaboratively together with the California Department of Public Health, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) at the California Department of Industrial Relations, to issue joint updated guidance on the following topics:

The CDSS Community Care Licensing Division has developed Provider Information Notices (PIN), which provides guidance on social and physical distancing, ratio and group sizes, and healthy practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PINs released by CDSS can be found at https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/community-care-licensing.

For the state’s Early Learning and Care playbook for caring for children and getting back to work, visit https://californiaall.org/home.

Choosing to Reopen and What it Looks Like to Reopen Facilities

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidance to assist providers in making the decision to reopen. You can find the Child Care Decision Tree at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/Childcare-Decision-Tree.pdf.

For more information about COVID-19 guidance from the Office of Head Start, including the Collaborating Actively in Meaningful Planning (CAMP) series, please visit their website at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/coronavirus/responding-covid-19.

Other State and Federal Guidelines regarding Child Care and COVID-19

For more information about federal and state guidance and response to COVID-19, please refer to the following:

The CDC recently released additional guidance for child care providers in The Supplemental Guide for Child Care which can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-childcare.html.

Staff Development Resources

Contractors should provide staff development using, but not limited to, the resources located on the CDE, ELCD COVID-19 Guidance web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/elcdcovid19.asp, as well as the resources below:

Contractors should also contact the local R&R agency at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/rragencylist.asp and the local QCC consortia to identify additional resources to meet the needs of children, families, and staff.

Contacting your Program Quality Implementation Office Regional Consultant

If you have any questions regarding the information in this MB, please contact your assigned ELCD, Program Quality Implementation Office Regional Consultant via the ELCD Consultant Regional Assignments web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/ci/assignments.asp or by phone at 916-322-6233.

This MB is mandatory only to the extent that it cites a specific statutory and/or regulatory requirement. Any portion of this MB that is not supported by a specific statutory and/or regulatory requirement is not prescriptive pursuant to California EC Section 33308.5.
____________________________
Stephen Propheter, Director
Early Learning and Care Division

Questions:   Early Learning and Care Division | 916-322-6223
Last Reviewed: Friday, October 9, 2020
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