Spotlight Exclusives

Senate Approves Bipartisan Child Care Legislation

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The Senate enjoyed a rare moment of broad bipartisan agreement yesterday, overwhelmingly approving reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block (CCDBG). The bill, passed by a vote of 88-1, provides critical support to more than a million children in low-income families.

The program is recognized among members of both parties as a practical and effective measure to help low-income working families. Among children who are poor, fully 30 percent have a parent who works full time year-round.

The broad support for CCDBG achieved through negotiation and deliberation should serve as an example as Congress takes up issues already tagged as ripe for bipartisan action, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) particularly for childless adults and sentencing reform.

“[CCDBG] has been an enormously successful program,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) during floor debate. “It follows the example of other successful federal programs by enabling American families to help themselves.”

CCDBG helps subsidize the cost of child care for low-income families, and funds child care quality initiatives at the state level. Each month, more than 1.5 million children under the age of 13 receive funding through the program.

CCDBG was signed into law as a grant to the states in 1990; this is its first reauthorization since 1996. This reauthorization doesn۪t appropriate additional funding, but does shift the terms of the grant to emphasize accountability and quality of care.

Notable reforms include: a requirement that states conduct background checks on all child care providers receiving federal funds; an increase in the percentage of CCDBG funding designated for quality improvements; and a critical tweak that will allow children to stay in subsidized care for longer periods of time.

“Why is this program so important? Because child care is expensive,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who introduced the bill, also on the Senate floor. “It is the highest household expense faced by dual income households and averages $14,872 per year for two childrenChild care isn۪t a luxury, it is a necessity. It shouldn۪t reach beyond the bounds of the family budget, especially in these tough economic times.”

The cooperation demonstrated by Congress in reauthorizing CCDBG should set a precedent for other crucial legislation to address the needs of low-income working families. Be sure to follow Spotlight as we continue to monitor these issues in the months ahead.

Posted by Adam۬۬


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