Your calls and emails made a difference! On Thursday, March 13, the Senate passed the child care reauthorization by a vote of 96 to two. The legislation (S. 1086) would reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for the first time since 1996 when it was extended as part of the creation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair and bill-sponsor Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said, “We know that learning begins at birth, and the preparation for learning begins before birth. That’s why access to high-quality child care and early education programs are so critically important.” He went on to say, “The updates to this bill will ensure that the Child Care Block Grant program is both a support for working families as well as rich early-learning opportunity for children, including infants and toddlers and children with disabilities. This bill is a testament to how Congress can enact meaningful change by working together across party lines. I am encouraged by the HELP Committee’s growing record of bipartisan accomplishments.”
As an authorization it does not provide actual funding but provides the framework for the annual appropriations and child care allocation process. Child care funding includes $2.3 billion in annual appropriations but also includes a mandatory fund written into the TANF law which is currently set at $2.9 billion. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
Alexander issued a statement that said, “Washington ideas are often big and burdensome with lots of rules, but this child care program has survived for more than two decades with a simple idea: Give states grants so they can help low-income parents pay for the child care that best suits their families. This year it helped the parents of about 1.5 million children receive child care so they could go to work or get an education and move up the economic ladder and reach the American dream. I am pleased the Senate passed it today after a good debate, during which senators had the opportunity to offer amendments and get votes on those amendments, and I hope we can achieve more good results like this.”
The lone votes in opposition were cast by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Tom Colburn (R-OK) who both wanted to offer amendments on requiring Social Security numbers for children receiving child care and another limiting other programs on early childhood education.
House Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, Congressman John Kline (R-MN) announced a House hearing, saying “Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a step forward in the shared goal of strengthening the nation’s existing network of early childhood services. The bill includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care programs, such as Head Start.”