In a 28-0 vote, Nebraska lawmakers gave first-round approval Friday to a bill that would increase foster care reimbursement rates.
According to Sen. Annette Dubas, LB530 is a continuation of work that began last year to make the reimbursements better reflect actual childcare costs. In 2012, a temporary committee was formed to produce a study on the rates. This year's bill is based on the recommendations of that committee according to Dubas.
"It addresses a significant shortfall in the way that we compensate foster families across the state," Dubas said.
The bill would require Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to implement new rates by July 1, 2013. The rates according to the bill are:
- $20 per day for children younger than five;
- $23 per day for ages six to 11; and
- $25 per day for ages 12 to 18.
The bill also includes another committee recommendation that would require DHHS to develop a program putting into place new standardized level of care assessment tools.
In an amendment made by the Health and Human Services Committee, DHHS would have until July 1, 2013 to develop the pilot project and the project's review report would be directed to the state's Children's Commission. The measure passed in a 30-0 vote.
Dubas also introduced an amendment that would delay the start day for the new base rates to July 1, 2014. That amendment was adopted 31-0.
She said the changes would give lawmakers time to assess the pilot program and would cause less disruption in a child welfare system that has experienced a great deal of upheaval in recent years.
The bill also looks to reauthorize the Foster Care Reimbursement Committee, which would make recommendations to DHHS regarding:
- The statewide foster care reimbursement rate structure;
- Adoption assistance payments; and
- The statewide standardized level of care assessment.
The committee would report to the Legislature by July 1, 2016, and would re-evaluate the foster care payment system every four years.