Committee advances bill to help foster parents who work remotely

March 6, 2024 | 12:08 am

Updated March 5, 2024 | 11:35 pm

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, speaks Tuesday on Senate Bill 240, which would clarify that verified remote work can qualify foster parents to receive a child care subsidy. | Photo by KY LRC

A Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously advanced a bill to clarify that foster parents who work remotely can receive a childcare subsidy.

Senate Bill 240 would decrease barriers facing families who wish to participate in foster care, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville. The inability to afford child care should not be the reason people can’t provide a loving home, she said.

“We desperately need more foster families in Kentucky, and SB 240 can help us do just that. One of the ways that our state currently supports foster families is by providing childcare support to families who participate,” she said. “These subsidies help foster families so that they can both work and open their home to a child in need.”

Current regulations require people to work outside the home at least 20 hours a week to qualify for the childcare support, Chambers Armstrong said.

“But the interpretation of this regulation is inconsistent, and some have interpreted it to mean that families that are teleworking do not qualify for child care support because they are not physically working outside their home. This means that for these families, they cannot afford to become foster parents,” she said.

She noted that the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services does not object to the bill, and that the inspiration behind SB 240 is Megan Hamilton of Bullitt County, who testified during the meeting.

Hamilton said she wanted to adopt after babysitting years ago for a family with adopted children.

“When I was 22, I was driving home one day and I suddenly envisioned 2 children, a brother and sister waiting on the courthouse steps for me to pick them up, and that’s the moment I knew I was going to be a foster mom,” she said. “I began preparing to provide for my foster children by earning my master’s degree, building a successful career, paying off my debts, and moving to a better home.”

Hamilton said she and her husband attended an informational meeting on February 5, and they were told by a social worker that to qualify for a childcare subsidy, they both must work outside the home.

She explained she works for a company based in Las Vegas, and as a marketing writer, she doesn’t make enough money to commute by private jet. Instead, she telecommutes.

“We were told we would not receive childcare assistance because the law is unclear as to whether telecommuting counts as working outside the home or not. This is a barrier for us and for other families like us,” she said.

Hamilton said child care can cost several hundred dollars monthly, and many of the state’s parents self-report paying $800-$1,000 per child per month.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said the legislation changes the rules to fit the times.

“I think this could be called a workforce modernization plan because it reflects the new world that we live in,” he said. “I appreciate you bringing this to our attention.”

Likewise, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, spoke in favor of the measure.

“I will be in court remotely today. I will be in court remotely again tomorrow. I will be in court remotely once again later this week,” he said. “I will continue to do that even when I’m not in this legislative seat anymore because it’s how I end up practicing law at least a third of my time. There is no reason why this shouldn’t already be there.”

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

March 6, 2024 | 12:08 am

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