Last week we held our second open Community Action Information Board, and I appreciated the opportunity to speak in an open forum about issues in our Yokota Air Base community. Although I can’t promise to fix every problem, I can assure you that I will always be transparent in the decisions I make regarding the policies we have here at Yokota. It is a privilege to provide you information and resources, and I am especially grateful to provide insight to our spouses and dependents who are vital to our mission. With the assistance of our experts, here are some of the answers to the questions that came up in the meeting.
How’s the access for the new Give Parents a Break Program? The old way there was an event organized quarterly that you could use a voucher to get free care for a night. For the new program, you can use the Give Parents a Break Program when it’s good for you, but there is talk that spouses don’t have access or limited access.
Child Development Centers are designed for mission essential personnel so that single Airmen or deployed Airmen who have children (not school-aged) have an option for childcare while they are taking care of the mission. Under the original Give Parents a Break Program, there was one event per quarter that spouses of deployed Airmen or families who are experiencing a hardship could bring their children to and use a voucher for free care. The new pilot program is designed to cater to the deployed spouses by giving them leeway to use their voucher at their convenience for drop-in care. However, the CDC’s availability varies depending on staffing and capacity, so opening up this opportunity does not guarantee spouses will be able to use the CDC when they want, but it does provide them an option. What’s important for those using the Give Parents a Break Program to understand is that right now we do not have Family Child Care providers and the CDC staff is doing their best to accommodate these requests. There are currently four FCCs in training and the child care staff is working diligently to ensure they get through the process expeditiously.
The CDC is still offering Parents Night Out quarterly, where those with Give Parents a Break vouchers can use them. However, if people with vouchers are interested in using the drop-in care option, the CDC will work to accommodate them. They do ask that if you want to use this option, you let the child care staff know that you are using the Give Parents a Break Program when you call in for care. This gives the staff an opportunity to look into their status of availability and schedule you.
In regards to the FCC providers, is there a pricing structure that they’re suggested to follow or are they able to set the prices? Is it comparable to the pricing structure of the CDC, based on your income?
Family Child Care providers are self-employed and are able to set their own prices, but they do have access to the CDC pricing structure and know what rates the CDC is charging. They are able to charge the CDC rate.
COLA is cyclical and is based on two surveys. One is the Living of Pattern Survey, which is distributed every three years. This survey is sent out by the Air Force and asks what your purchasing habits are -- Where do you shop? How much are you spending? The next LPS is coming up early this summer. If you want to have a direct impact on your COLA, taking the survey should be a priority. Both Airmen and their spouses have the option of taking this survey, so if one spouse does more of the shopping, they should be the ones filling out the survey to get the most accurate results.
The second survey is called the Retail Price Survey. For this survey, selected members of the base go out and reprice the goods that you identified in the Living Pattern Survey. It consists of 120 items that cover all the items we purchase on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis from laundry detergents, to alcohol, tobacco, steak, milk, eggs, furniture, and recreation in the local area – it covers the whole spectrum. Members go out and reprice items from a checklist of places you identified that you shop at in the LPS. They reprice items annually, and that’s why we see some fluctuations.
Who are the members that conduct the RPS?
Each base does the Retail Price Survey individually and it usually floats down to the finance office, but the finance office does try and get spouses throughout the base involved with it. A lot of times the members who conduct the survey are Airmen from the finance office because they have difficulty getting volunteers to help. During the next RPS, we will work hard to make sure more people are included in this opportunity.
Does the LPS get sent to the active duty member or do spouses also have access to it?
Active duty members and their spouses will both have access to the Living Pattern Survey. Active duty members will receive an official email with the survey link, and they can pass the survey info to their spouses. We will also make sure information about the survey is sent out via Public Affairs channels and broadcast on AFN. Additionally, information about the survey will be distributed through the key spouses and be accessible on non-government computers.
Thanks to everyone for their interest and efforts in making Yokota a better place to live. The installation team is committed to addressing the issues that make life more challenging here and doing everything in our power to fix and improve the base. It is an honor to serve with all of you right now. This is a great place to live and work, and we want to keep it that way!
- Col Ken Moss , 374th Airlift Wing Commander