It's a holiday miracle!!
Congressional leaders released a COVID-19 relief package today that is expected to pass both chambers, funding the government though the end of the fiscal year and providing relief to a coronavirus-battered economy. Specifically, it makes an immediate and essential downpayment on nutrition and other critical assistance for tens of millions of people across the country whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.
The bill includes $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the COVID hunger crisis. For CACFP, support for child care providers and sponsors will come by replacing 55 percent of the total reimbursement funding lost for each claiming month from April 2020 to June 2020 plus half of March 2020.
For many months, the CCFP Roundtable and the National CACFP Forum have jointly advocated this proposal. Emergency funding to CACFP sponsors, centers, homes, and afterschool programs is desperately needed to help cover deficits in operating-cost that have been created by shutdowns, as well as a shift in services, that occurred during the pandemic. This important provision in the relief package will be crucial to maintaining the infrastructure and financial viability of program operators and administrators. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CACFP meal reimbursements have decreased significantly. Based on Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) analysis of the most recent USDA data available, child care providers received $92.0 million fewer dollars (-29.4 percent) in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Child care providers and sponsors are losing reimbursements that are needed to support fixed costs; this loss contributes to deficits in already overburdened child care budgets and compounds instability in the infrastructure for providing child care in the U.S. In June 2020, we conducted a survey of CACFP sponsors; with over 1,200 respondents the need for emergency funding is clear. For family child care sponsors, the decline in claimed homes averaged 27%. For the same time period, center sponsors reported a 72% decrease in participating centers claiming. The sudden decrease of claiming providers creates a stark financial burden for CACFP sponsors with the loss of administrative funds. The loss of these funds jeopardizes sponsors' ability to keep their staff on board and their doors open. The greatest need cited by CACFP sponsors to assist with recovery during the pandemic was financial.
Stayed tuned for more information!
The National CACFP Forum and the Child Care Food Program Roundtable have teamed up again to provide guidance to federal policy makers. We have sent a letter to the USDA transition team outlining immediate action and long term priorities that will support and make stronger the CACFP.
You can find the letter here.
The National CACFP Forum mobilized, in partnership with our partner organizations, to ensure that policies and procedures would not infringe on children having access to the meals provided by the Child and Adult Care Food Program. There were phone calls with congressional leaders, letters written to branch chiefs and the Undersecretary at USDA, and surveys created – distributed and analyzed.
March 21, 2020 – A joint letter was sent by the National CACFP Forum and the Child Care Food Program Roundtable thanking USDA for waiving the meal service time requirement, congregate feeding requirement and afterschool activity requirements. The Forum and Roundtable provided additional suggestions, many of which, you’ll see were put in place by USDA. Some of these included allowing CACFP sites to offer a mix of congregate and non-congregate meal service models, allow multiple meals to be provided at one time, variations in meal patterns, suspend onsite monitoring and many many more.
March 31, 2020 – The Forum and Roundtable sent a joint letter to Congress providing suggestions to support the vulnerable infrastructure of child care with targeted investment in CACFP.
May 15th – A second letter to USDA asking for extensions of the waivers and assurance that states don’t add extra burdens to the waiver process.
Throughout the summer the Forum made phone calls, sent numerous emails and finally sent a letter to Undersecretary Brandon Lipps informing USDA that CACFP Sponsoring Organizations could not, in good conscious, send their monitors out for in person site visits and that they would be done via telephone or other technological means.
When we talk about legislative policy, we are talking about policy in terms of working with Congress and other elected officials. These are policies that are set forth in bills such as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR). Congress sets rules in these bills that USDA must implement. For example, when Congress passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) in 2010, they stated that USDA had to change the meal patterns to better align with the updated dietary guidelines set forth in the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) report. Then USDA determined what those regulations were going to be through the process required of making new regulations (Proposed Rule ---> Comment ---> Final Rule).
Another important note is that changes in reimbursement amounts (and how those are determined) or the meals that can be reimbursed (adding an additional meal for reimbursement) are also set forth by Congress, which is legislative policy. So, for these types of things we work with Congressional members to advise and educate them about the food program, its impact, and what can be done by Congress to make it better.