CHN: Senate Reauthorizes Child Care and Development Block Grant
The Senate enacted a bill on March 13 to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (PL 97-35) for the first time in nearly 20 years. This legislation (S 1086) institutes new educational, health and safety standards for child care facilities that receive federal funding. Senators passed the bill (S 1086) by a 97-1 vote.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the main federal grant program providing child care assistance to children in low-income families and also funds child care quality initiatives. CCDBG is directed to states through a formula. The block grant is made up of a mix of discretionary and mandatory funding and was last reauthorized in 1996 through FY 2002. Since the 2006 budget reconciliation measure (PL109-171), which authorized mandatory spending for five years, the grant has received funding through annual appropriations.
The new bill is intended to do the following: 1) Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings, 2) Make it easier for families to get and keep the child care assistance they need, 3) Enable children to have more stable care, and 4) Strengthen the quality of child care.
The Senate legislation requires states to set aside three percent of funding to expand access and improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers, with the proportion of funding to improve quality growing over time. The bill will encourage updated health and nutrition guidelines, improve staff training, strengthen coordination with other early childhood programs, improve programming for children with disabilities, and ensure that children getting subsidized care can continue to receive it for at least a year.
Advocates are pleased at the overwhelming Senate vote, and hope this will spur action in the House.
Congress appropriated $2.4 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2014, which is about 7 percent more than the post-sequester FY 2013 funding level. Additionally, the program has received $2.9 billion in mandatory funding every year since 2006. Implementation of the bill would cost $13.1 billion from FY 2015 through FY 2019. A major concern is that prospects for increased funding in FY 2015 or beyond are not promising because of the tight caps on discretionary funding. Child care subsidies have been squeezed in recent years. The 1.5 million children receiving child care assistance now is about 200,000 fewer than the total in FY 2012.