On Wednesday, April 11, child care advocates celebrated the biggest increase in child care funding history. The FY 2018 deal enacted last month increased annually appropriated child care funds by $2.3 billion raising the total to $5.2 billion for FY 2018.

Advocates heard from long time Capitol Hill champions including Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) the Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee and Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor-HHS-Education. Murray recounted her first race in Washington state in 1992. She was described then as the candidate who was “just a mom in tennis shoes” because of her advocacy in the state legislature. She talked about that experience and compared it to the long battle to get increased child care funding. Senator Murray said she was always told back then that she couldn’t advocate for her issues in the state legislature. Murray said, “when they say you can’t do something, it’s because they are afraid you will do something.”

The group also heard remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who recounted her struggles with child care when she received her best teaching job. She talked about nearly giving up her dream job because of the lack of child care for her child and the difficulty of raising her children and having a career. She was able to survive only because of the support of her Aunt Bea who stepped in to become a live-in child care provider. Finally the group heard from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) longtime children’s advocate. She also encouraged the group and recognized the many years of advocacy that resulted in the 2018 increase.

The $2.3 billion in new child care funding represents an historic increase not experienced since its inception in 1990 under the George H.W. Bush Administration. Other increases included the 1996 TANF law that included an initial increase of $600 million along with an influx of $1 billion over six years that also leveraged state matching funds. The next big increase came at the end of the Clinton Administration which saw an increase in annual appropriations of a little more than $800 million in FY 2001. After that there were almost no increases in funds until the 2009 stimulus package under President Obama with a $2 billion increase over two years.

This budget increase of $2.3 billion will now bring total discretionary dollars to $5.2 billion. This combines with the stagnant TANF child care funds which provide an additional $2.9 billion of which approximately $2 billion requires a state match. This funding also carries with it certain set asides to improve the quality, early childhood training and increased reimbursement rates for child care providers. In the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was the first reauthorization since 1996, Congress mandated certain quality improvements, protections for families receiving child care subsidies and other requirements such as background checks. These new dollars will help implement these provisions and by at least one estimate will increase child care subsidies to 230,000 children.