CHN: Senate Committee Approves Child Care Bill

CCDBG Gets a $1 Billion Increase
On Wednesday, September 4, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved legislation by voice vote to increase discretionary child care subsidies by $1 billion for fiscal year 2003. The bill (S 2758) would boost discretionary funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to a total of $3.1 billion for the next fiscal year.

The measure, sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), would require states to set aside at least ten percent of block grant money to improve the quality of local child care, an increase from last year’s minimum of a four percent quality set-aside. Quality set-aside investment would be comprised of three categories of activity: recruitment, training, and retention of high quality child care providers; initiatives to improve the quality and availability of child care for children in special populations; and support for coordinated, statewide systems of local resource and referral agencies.

In addition to increased discretionary subsidies and quality set-asides, S 2758 would give states the option of using CCDBG funds for an at-home infant care program that would authorize payments for low-income parents to provide at home care to young children for up to 24 months. The bill would also authorize several new programs including The Federal Employees Child Care Act to ensure the health and safety of children in child care programs located on federal property, The Book Stamp Act to make books available through early learning programs, and The Early Care and Education Act to create state block grants for activities such as public awareness campaigns and parent education.

CCDBG will likely be addressed on the floor when the Senate tackles the Finance Committee’s welfare reauthorization bill. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over mandatory spending, while the HELP Committee controls discretionary spending. The Finance Committee approved welfare legislation (HR 4737) on June 26 that would increase mandatory CCDBG spending by $5.5 billion over the next five years, but the legislation is awaiting floor action. The House-passed welfare bill authorizes $1 billion in mandatory child care funding and $3 billion in discretionary funding over the next five years. Child care advocates contend that mandatory spending is the significant piece of the debate, as it is the only funding that is guaranteed to states.

Budget and Appropriations
Social Services