In the fall of 2009, faced with a 3 billion dollar budget shortfall, the state of Arizona eliminated funding for licensing services from the budget of the Arizona Department of Health Services. We were given the authority to self-fund these services by passing the costs of providing this critical public health service back to the providers. For childcare providers this decision created an economic crisis as they faced an increase in three-year licensing fees from $30 to $1,000, and for large providers $150 to $7,800. At public hearings sponsored by the ADHS, childcare providers and parents expressed their concern at the increase in rates. Comments emphasized that the increase in fees would result in the closure of many facilities and would lead to massive lay-offs. Parents testified that higher childcare rates would cause many to quit their jobs to stay home with their children and/or leave their children in unsafe and unregulated settings.
By now, you all know how we leveraged federal funds through our Title V Maternal & Child Health funds to provide an incentive for facilities to improve physical activity and nutrition during the day. Childcare facilities that elect to participate in our Empower program essentially receive a 50% discount on their fees in exchange for implementing simple and cheap operational changes that improve nutrition and physical activity at childcare facilities. Well over 99% of facilities have elected to do the Empower program in exchange for the discount.
This short story has gotten national attention as an example of how creative thinking in a crisis can result in positive outcomes. We’ve had a number of requests to tell the story- so we decided to put it all together in a white-paper for national distribution. You can see the Whitepaper (written by Jeanette Shea) on our Empower website.