On Thursday, February 3 Capitol Hill was the site of a press conference introducing a new child care bill, the Child Care Access to Resources for Early Learning Act (Child C.A.R.E. Act).

If the legislation becomes law it would provide significant investment into child care subsidies improving the quality, the supply, and the workforce. In the Senate the main sponsor is Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) while in the House it will be cosponsored by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL). The proposed legislation would provide $25 billion in mandatory funding (funding not requiring an annual appropriation) over ten years and would result in adding one million children receiving child care subsidies (doubling coverage) over the next 10 years. It would also enhance the child care workforce and improve the quality of care across the board.  The three goals have always been a challenge since funding for each of the outcomes come from the same block grant and targeting one may mean less for another, for example expanding coverage may mean less funding for improving the quality of that care.

The press conference included a panel presentation by the bill sponsors as well as representatives from the Administration including Roberto Rodriguez, Special Counsel on Education for the White House and Linda Smith from HHS.

In introducing the bill, Senator Casey said that the legislation was all about being able to “learn more now so you can earn more later.” Both Congressman Crowley and Congresswoman Frankel discussed the cost of child care highlighting the fact that in many states one year of quality child care can out price the cost of a year of college education.

Child care funding comes from two different funding streams at the federal level with annual appropriations totaling $2.7 billion. It is allocated to states by formula and does not require a match.  A second source, that would see big increases under the bill, is mandatory funding written into the TANF law.  It is currently funded at $2.9 billion with approximately $1 billion allocated to states based on what states had received under the old AFDC program.  The remaining total (and much of the new funding under the bill) requires states to match their allocation as a condition.

Under the new bill states would have to match the increase and also have to commit to serving no less than the current population of children under four while also improving the quality of that care. The proposal is an attempt to bridge a gap for children under four who don’t benefit under current federal and state efforts to expand pre-K services. The legislation also increases funding dedicated to improving infant and toddler care. The proposal would also set aside funding for tribal early learning expansion grants. The legislation is intended to strengthen the child care workforce which is critical to quality. In all likelihood the administration will include funding in their proposed budget this week.