As child care challenges continue to plague North Carolina workers and create a barrier to accessing talent for employers, state leaders are exploring creative solutions.
In the state budget that recently became law, it was directed that the Division of Child Development and Early Education and North Carolina Partnership for Children shall establish a two-year pilot program to implement the Tri-Share Childcare program, a program that creates a public/private partnership to share the cost of child care equally between employers, eligible employees, and the state.
The goal of the pilot is to address affordability and accessibility, create stability across the state, and help with employer retention efforts.
Safiyah Jackson, chief strategy officer at the North Carolina Partnership for Children, joined a call of the NC Chamber Coalition on Child Care this week to tell us more about how this pilot will work in North Carolina.
An NC Chamber Cornerstone member, the North Carolina Partnership for Children leads Smart Start. They will collaborate with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education to bring this pilot to life.
What is it?
The state budget creates a financing mechanism that allows for a formal arrangement between business, state, and families to contribute to the cost of access to child care.
Specifically, the pilot will establish three regional hubs, one of which must be in a Tier 1 county. The regional hubs will be tasked with pulling in the dollars from the three sources and recruiting providers to take payment. It has yet to be determined how this will work with the current subsidy program.
Jackson explained to the group that the two-year pilot allocates $900,000 to be split equally among the three hubs. Up to 9% of the funds can be used by each region for administration and the money for the state’s contribution to the subsidized access is also included in that amount.
Who else is doing it?
While Michigan is often first cited, Kentucky and Alaska are with us on the radar as early adopters for this financing model.
North Carolina’s team is looking carefully at the other states to learn as much as possible. Jackson explained that Michigan has had challenges. Because it was just a pilot program, it was challenging to get employers to commit without certainty the program would be a proven long-term solution. There were also challenges around awareness and timing of budgets, something that was flagged as a concern for North Carolina as many employers are likely already looking at 2024 benefits packages.
The goal is for the regional hubs to be selected in North Carolina by mid-November. The team is working to identify who has the business and provider relationships, as well as the administrative capacity, to take on this work.
The next step will be to work with those regions to codesign a program to scale. They will recruit businesses and providers to join that process and launch strategic communication efforts to ensure North Carolina’s families and communities understand and know what is coming.
Ultimately, they will work to officially launch by the end of the state’s fiscal year in June.
Jackson reminded the coalition that this pilot will likely impact a couple hundred children, it is a small pilot, but they are working to create something that is built to scale.