Why We Need to Prioritize Child Care
August 19, 2016
Affordable, high-quality child care is not only crucial for children’s development, but it enables parents to work and support their families while giving them the peace of mind that their children are in safe environments. Unfortunately, this summer the House and Senate approved Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bills for FY17 that include some very bad news for working families in need of child care assistance.
By Abbie Starker, C’17
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) was not sufficiently funded to meet new health and safety requirements or to assist the many families who are eligible for child care subsidies but do not receive them.
In November 2014, The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act was signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support, reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program for the first time since 1996. The Child Care and Development Fund is the the country’s primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families as well as the primary source of funding for improving the quality and safety of child care programs, and the reauthorization represented a significant re-envisioning of CCDF. The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act set in place new health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlined new eligibility policies for families who need child care assistance, and works towards providing transparent information about the choices families have about child care.
The problem is that states cannot implement the new health and safety requirements of CCDBG without significantly more funding than they have received in the past. Even though Congress members on both sides of the isle strongly supported CCDBG, they have since failed to sufficiently fund it, which has led to awful consequences for thousands of children and families across the country.
Experts have calculated that CCDBG would require an increase in funding of $1.2 billion for FY17 if states were to meet the new requirements and prevent a further decline in the number of children receiving child care assistance – which has already decreased by 43,000 children between 2013 and 2014 alone . But despite this clear need for additional child care funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee increased CCDBG funding for FY 2017 by only $25 million  and the House Appropriations Committee increased CCDBG funding for FY 2016 by only $40 million . This is simply not enough.
Due to insufficient federal funding, many families with incomes too low to afford child care on their own are unable to receive child care assistance under their states’ restrictive eligibility limits. In 2015, a family with an income above 150 percent of poverty ($30,135 a year for a family of three in 2015) was ineligible for assistance in 17 states. A family with an income above 200 percent of poverty ($40,180 a year for a family of three in 2015) was ineligible for assistance in 39 states . But even if families are eligible for child care assistance, they may not necessarily receive it.
Currently, only one in six children eligible for child care assistance under CCDBG receives it . Furthermore, in 2015, 21 states had waiting lists for assistance or turned away eligible families without adding their names to a waiting list. In many states, waiting lists are extremely long—over 25,000 children in Massachusetts, over 31,000 children in North Carolina, and over 51,000 children in Florida as of early 2015 . Studies have shown that many families on waiting lists struggle to pay for reliable, good-quality child care in addition to other necessities, or must use low-cost, lower quality care. Some families cannot afford any child care at all, which can prevent parents from working .
Congress’s failure to substantially increase child care funding simply does not make sense. Research clearly shows that high-quality child care not only helps low-income parents get jobs and lessens the negative effects of poverty and instability, but also supports children’s healthy development and success in school. We must make the needed investments in child care, otherwise it will be low-income children and families and the caregivers who support them who will suffer.
 Center for Law and Social Policy, “$1.2 Billion Investment Needed in 2017 to Implement CCDBG Reauthorization,” Center for Law and Social Policy, CLASP, March 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/1.2-billion-factsheet.pdf
 Center for Law and Social Policy, “Child Care Assistance Spending and Participation in 2014” Center for Law and Social Policy, CLASP, March 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/CC-Spending-and-Participation-2014-1.pdf
 The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, “FY2017 Labor, HHS & Education Appropriations Bill Cleared For Senate Consideration,” The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, June 9, 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/060916-FY17-LaborHHS-Approps-Full-Committee-Markup-Summary-Web.pdf
 The United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, “A BILL Making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes,” The United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, July 2016. [Online[. Available: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-114hr-sc-ap-fy2017-laborhhs-subcommitteedraft.pdf
 K. Shulman and H. Blank, “Building Blocks: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2015,” The National Women’s Law Center, October 27, 2015. [Online]. Available: https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/CC_RP_Building_Blocks_Assistance_Policies_2015.pdf
 Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, “Estimates of Child Care Eligibility and Receipt For Fiscal Year 2012,” Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, November 24, 2015. [Online]. Available: https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/estimates-child-care-eligibility-and-receipt-fiscal-year-2012
 K. Schulman and H. Blank, “In Their Own Voices: Parents and Providers Struggling with Child Care Cuts,” National Women’s Law Center, 2005. [Online]. Available: https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/childcarevoicesreport_september2005.pdf
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