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An Early-Learning Focused Comprehensive Overview of the 2024 Legislative Session

Advocacy Policy Updates

Note: This blog post was posted on March 29, 2024. As implementation information is released, we will continue to update this content and communicate with providers and families.

The BrightSpark Advocacy Team is proud to celebrate the end of the 2024 Legislative Session. As a result of our collective advocacy work alongside so many partners, providers, and families, the legislature invested over $57 million in new funding to support the early learning system.

BrightSpark Priorities

 As a result of ongoing conversations with the early learning community, BrightSpark’s 2024 Legislative Agenda prioritized support for policy and budget proposals to:

  • increase investments in infant and early childhood mental health consultation;
  • make child care available to more families; and
  • increase ECEAP entitlement* capacity.

BrightSpark Engagement

The results that come from advocating for change with the legislature can be attributed to many factors and actions including some of the work our BrightSpark Community was a part of! During the 2024 Legislative Session, the BrightSpark team was proud to take action with state lawmakers and their staff in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Five (5) public testimonials made by Logan Endres, Advocacy Director, as well as Mica Slater, Comprehensive Services Department Manager;
  • 23 “sign in” actions during public hearings;
  • Six (6) recurring meetings that legislators held with our Advocacy Director; and
  • Seven (7) written communications to articulate detailed thoughts about various policy proposals.

Our engagement also included the advocacy and mobilization work done by you. We set record attendance at BrightSpark Advocacy Day this year with 93 participants meeting with 42 legislators representing 23 of the state’s legislative districts.

Read on to learn more about what happened for early learning and child care and how it might impact you.

Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMH-C)
What happened?What does this mean for providers and families in King & Pierce County?
Child Care Aware of Washington (CCA-WA) will receive an additional $1.75 million to support staffing for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMH-C) across the state.(SB 5950, Sec. 229(23))This funding will be used to hire additional mental health consultants. The IECMH-C program has a significant waitlist with approximately 100 programs across the state, and the additional mental health consultants will help to alleviate that waitlist.

Subsidy Program Improvements
What happened?What does this mean for providers and families in King & Pierce County?
The Legislature increased DCYF’s budget by $5.6 million to raise the monthly infant rate enhancement for providers.(SB 5950, Sec. 229(41))The infant rate enhancement will increase from $90 to $180 per child, per month, effective July 1, 2024.
The Legislature increased DCYF’s budget by $772,000 to raise the monthly non-standard hour bonus for providers delivering over 30 hours of non-standard hours of care per month, per child.(SB 5950, Sec. 229(5)(b))The non-standard hour bonus will increase from $135 to $150 per child, per month, effective July 1, 2024.
The Legislature simplified state child care subsidy requirements for families receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).(SHB 1945)Beginning November 1, 2024, children who meet age requirements for ECEAP or early ECEAP who are also eligible for or receiving SNAP benefits will be eligible for ECEAP or early ECEAP.
Beginning November 1, 2024, Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) household income eligibility requirements are satisfied for all who are eligible for or receiving SNAP benefits.
The Legislature streamlines state child care subsidy laws for ECEAP, early ECEAP, and WCCC to make affordable child care more accessible for providers and families. (2SHB 2124)
Family’s participation in early ECEAP or Head Start satisfies the work requirement for WCCC.
WCCC eligibility is expanded for all licensed or certified providers who work in ECEAP, early ECEAP, Head Start, and Early Head Start in support of enrolling their own children.
The Legislature updated and re-organized the state law about child care subsidy programs to create ease of access to help low-and-moderate-income children and families access child care.(HB 2111)By creating ease of access, families can experience a more simplified and more accessible application process to access care.

Benefits for Providers
What happened?What does this mean for providers and families in King & Pierce County?
ECEAP rates will grow by 5% for full day and 9% for extended day care.(SB 5950, Sec. 229 (1)(b)(ii))ECEAP rates will increase by 5% for full day and 9% for extended day care statewide. This will mean additional opportunities for more children in ECEAP programs in King & Pierce County.
DCYF will be required to offer fingerprinting/background check services at a minimum of seven (7) of their child care offices across the state.(SB 5774)Providers will have additional access to fingerprinting-based background checks. These offices will be set-up throughout the state based on regional demand. Stay tuned for more information about how this will be implemented over the coming weeks and months.
The Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) count day was changed and must fall on the last business day of each month.(SHB 1916)For the purposes of funding, a child is considered to have received ESIT services if they received services within the same month as the money count day.
The Washington State Business & Occupation (B&O) Tax exemption on child care services is expanded to include income from serving children up to age 12 and up to age 17 who have special needs.(ESSB 6038)Providers eligible for B&O tax credits who serve children up to age 12 or up to age 17 with special needs will be eligible for this expanded tax credit.

Statewide Engagement
What happened?What does this mean for providers and families in King & Pierce County?
State task forces, work groups, and advisory committees will be required to have at least three (3) individuals with direct lived experience in the issue or topic of focus as part of membership.(2SHB 1541)Beginning on January 1, 2025, the early learning community will be better represented on state task forces, work groups, and advisory committees. As we hear about early learning/child care focused groups, we will communicate about opportunities to serve.
Child Care Aware of Washington (CCA-WA) will receive $1.31 million to support coordinated recruitment and enrollment for the Transition to Kindergarten (TTK) program.(SB 5950, Sec. 229 (42))We’re still learning about implementation of this funding. Stay tuned for additional updates.

What happened?What does this mean for providers and families in King & Pierce County?
The Legislature made changes to the Washington State Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Early Learning Facilities Grant Program to include (1) removing funding limits on grant and loan awards and (2) a requirement to prioritize grant applications for facilities that are ready for construction.(HB 2195)These changes will impact centers that are eligible and choose to apply for funding through the Early Learning Facilities Grant Program.
Grant applications for the next funding cycle focused on child care minor renovations grants for health and safety are due by April 16, 2024.
The Early Learning Facilities Grant Program has a Department of Commerce webpage and a DCYF webpage that provide more information.
The Legislature invested $26.9 million into funding early learning facilities across the state. This funding will be distributed in the following manner:$4.5 million to competitive grants$2.35 million to minor renovation projects$20.38 million for 14 designated projects(SB 5949, Sec 1010)There will not be any immediate impact for most providers. The $4.5 million for competitive grants and the $2.35 million for minor renovation will be used to fund projects that have already been applied for and approved by the Department of Commerce. 
The $20.38 million will be used to fund 14 designated projects – see pages 22 and 26.

As you begin to navigate the results of the 2024 legislative session, , don’t hesitate to reach out to BrightSpark’s Advocacy Team at We’ll be tracking information that you’ll need to know to implement these policy changes and plan to communicate with you on a regular basis over the next few months. We’re happy to help provide additional information and answer any questions you may have.

The above 2024 legislative session “wins” will help to better prepare the system for what’s coming next. Now that the legislative session is over, our team is shifting to organizing and mobilizing for universal access and thriving wages will push the legislature to advance accessibility, quality, and equity in the early learning system so that:

  • providers are paid a thriving wage that reflects the high value of their work;
  • all children, families, and providers have access to mental health care; and
  • every child has access to high-quality child care!