RI officials acknowledge problems with child care payments

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Two separate payment errors have affected hundreds of child care centers across Rhode Island, Target 12 has learned.

Lori Lanoue, owner of Creative Child in Coventry, said her centers did not receive payment for children who are under the guardianship of the R.I. Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

“For our center alone, it was close to $4,000 in a two-week period,” Lanoue said. “That’s a portion of our financials missing. It’s imperative that we get paid for these.”

Lanoue said her center reported the error to the R.I. Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees the Child Care Assistance Program.

“We took it a step further,” Lanoue said. “We contacted a few other centers, and realized it wasn’t just something within our own center, that it was statewide.”

DHS spokesperson Alisha Pina said 233 child care providers in the state were affected by the issue.

“We have 655 DCYF children and the issue was a result of updating voucher eligibility for them rather than a system issue,” Pina said in an email.

The system Pina is referring to is the UHIP benefits eligibility system that launched in September 2016. The massively expensive, Deloitte-built computer system has been riddled with issues that have affected benefits and health care for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders.

DHS Director Courtney Hawkins acknowledged the non-payment error.

“The State apologizes for this error and is always working hard to ensure that accurate and timely payments are made to our providers,” Hawkins said in a statement to Target 12. “In this case, we immediately notified providers and sent corrective payments. We appreciate the patience our child care providers have shown us, and all that they do for Rhode Island families and children.”

DHS said the amount paid to providers to correct the non-payment error for DCYF children totaled $215,507.

But it doesn’t end there.

Linoue says she discovered the state deducted union dues from both of her centers, totaling about $500. The catch: Linoue says her child care centers are not part of a union.

“It’s frustrating,” Linoue said. “We’ve become watchdogs for the state.”

Pina said the union dues error is the result of a UHIP system issue that has been fixed. Pina said the incorrect withdrawals happened more than a year ago and are being corrected with providers.

The agency says it believes the total amount withdrawn in error was about $69,000.