The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has released their annual 2015 State Child Care Assistance Report that reviews state child care services and policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This year’s report, Building Blocks: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2015, shows improvements in 32 states meaning that services were improved in one or more significant policy areas reviewed annually by the organization.
The report compares policies and services from February 2015 to February 2014. It means that families had greater access to child care assistance or received greater benefits from assistance. At the same time families in 16 states were worse off under one of more of these policies in February 2015 than in February 2014. The report indicates some continuing improvements in policies over the last few years. The decade previous to the 2008 recession had not seen much improvement in child care funding and services and that became worse during the recession. It began to change incrementally after the 2009 stimulus package added child care funding and states began to address the shortfalls from the prerecession and recession freezes.
Some of the key findings of the report:
- Two states increased their income limits for child care assistance by exceeding inflation with four states increasing their income limits to adjust for multiple years of inflation, and twenty-nine states increased their income limits for one year of inflation
- Twenty-one states had waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance in 2015, higher than the eighteen states with waiting lists or frozen intake in 2014
- In all but a few states, families receiving child care assistance paid the same percentage of their income in copayments in 2015 as in 2014. For a family at 150 percent of poverty, copayments as a percentage of income increased in one state and decreased in one state. For a family at 100 percent of poverty, copayments as a percentage of income increased in two states and decreased in two states.
- Eighteen states increased at least some of their reimbursement rates for providers serving families receiving child care assistance, while no state reduced its reimbursement rates, between 2014 and 2015.
- Forty-six states allowed families receiving child care assistance to continue receiving it while a parent searched for a job in 2015, the same number of states as in 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, six of these states increased the length of time families could receive child care assistance while a parent searched for a job. Thirteen states allowed families not receiving child care assistance to qualify for assistance while a parent searched for a job in 2015, a slight decrease from fourteen states in 2014.21
This is the third year in a row in which the situation for families improved in more states than it worsened. NWLC points out that there are still major gaps in families’ access to assistance and the level of assistance they can receive.
Child care funding is drawn from the discretionary or annually appropriated Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and combined with mandatory funding written into the TANF law. There had been virtually no increases in these sources after the last appropriations of the Clinton Administration (FY 2001). CCDBG (which in this example includes the mandatory funding) was $5.352 billion in FY 2015. CCDBG funding in FY 2015 was slightly lower than funding in FY 2014 after adjusting for inflation ($5.375 billion in FY 2015 dollars).
CCDBG funding in FY 2015 is actually lower than in FY 2010, when the recession stimulus funding boosted child care funding to 6.044 billion. The FY 2010 level represented a peak for CCDBG, exceeding the previous peak for CCDBG funding after adjusting for inflation ($6.468 billion in FY 2015 dollars) which occurred in FY 2002.
Beside the mandatory funding that is provided as part of Title IV-A TANF, the cash assistance TANF block has always been an additional source of child care funding. States may transfer up to 30 percent of their TANF block grant funds to CCDBG, or use TANF funds directly for child care without first transferring the money. States’ use of TANF dollars for child care (including both transfers and direct funding) was $2.615 billion in FY 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available), below the high of $3.966 billion in FY 2000.
Total federal child care funding from CCDBG and TANF in FY 2015, assuming use of TANF funds was the same as the FY 2014 inflation-adjusted amount, was $8.016 billion, which was significantly below funding in FY 2001 after adjusting for inflation—$11.160 billion in FY 2015 dollars.