WESTFIELD — Gov. Maura Healey, Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler and Early Education Commissioner Amy Kershaw visited Roots Learning Center on Feb. 15 to celebrate changes to how the state reimburses early education and care providers who accept child care financial assistance.

Meeting with the governor and her team were a Westfield delegation of state Sen. John Velis, Mayor Michael McCabe and Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, and child care providers from throughout the region.

According to the governor’s announcement, Western Massachusetts has historically had lower reimbursement rates compared to other regions. The new rates approved by the Board of Early Education and Care on Jan. 10 give this region the same rates as central and southeastern Massachusetts.

Starting Feb. 1, Western Massachusetts center-based child care providers started to receive a 34% increase in reimbursement rates for infant care (from $72.37 per day per child to $91.18), 14% increase for toddler care (from $66.36 to $75.48) and 13% for preschool care (from $45.82 to $57.23). Healey said the new rate allows the state to reimburse child care providers equitably.

Healey said it was important for her administration to meet with child care providers.

“Child care is foundational to kids’ development, to families, to the economy and to the workforce,” she said during a roundtable with local officials.

“Thank you for all you’ve been doing for the community and staff. This has been a trying time over the past couple of years,” said Kellie Brown, chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield. She said the new subsidies will have a big impact on staff and families.

The governor’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget also includes $914 million for child care financial assistance, a $154 million increase over last year, to support low- and moderate-income families. The budget proposes increasing the eligibility for child care financial assistance by using $75 million from the Fair Share Amendment, the surtax on incomes over $1 million passed by voters in 2022. The change would make an additional 4,000 families eligible for assistance.

Brown said before these changes, the Boys & Girls Club could not offer assistance to families who earned over 50% of the state median income, even if they were just 1% over. Now families can qualify for assistance if they earn up to 85% of median income.

“Before, we were stuck. This is a huge help to our families,” Brown said, adding that the Boys & Girls Club is now able to offer subsidies for 160 individual children. “This will make it more affordable, and eligibility a lot easier for people who tried before,” she said, adding that the Department of Early Education under Kershaw has done a “total turnaround.”

“What she’s been able to accomplish in her short time as commissioner is outstanding,” she said.

Kershaw in turn pointed to Healey’s commitment to expanding child care opportunities in the state.

“We have a governor who really understands the importance of child care,” she said, adding that it has dual importance, helping to prepare children for school and allowing families to participate in the workforce.

During their visit, Healey, Tutwiler and Kershaw took a moment to speak to the four-year-olds in Lynn Paul’s preschool class at Roots Learning Center, telling the students they were there to learn about their school.

Nicole Cava, program director, and Rebecca King, education specialist for Roots Learning Center, talked about their program and thanked the governor and her administration for coming for the visit.

“I am proud that you are recognizing the early childhood education field as much as you are right now,” Cava said.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts