On Thursday, February 7, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, co-chair of the Baby Caucus and Chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee sponsored and moderated a Capitol Hill briefing on the State of Child Care in America.
DeLauro offered opening remarks focusing in on how support for expanded child care has grown since the early days of the President George H W Bush Administration when she was working for Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) a key architect of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The Congresswoman focused on the need to do much more in the coming year.
Part of the effort to expand child care funding will be the Child Care for Working Families Act (see 2017 version here). The legislation will be introduced soon with over 140 sponsors in the House and a mirror version in the Senate. The bill will propose a major expansion of child care funding to cover all families making up to 150 percent of the state’s median income. The major expansion would make child care a mandatory federal fund that states would draw down with a sliding scale fee for families. Families making 150 percent of the state’s median income would have a co-pay of seven percent with families at 85 percent of the median income or less having no copayment. There would also be a separate block grant to fund pre-k services for children zero to three years old.
The packed room, including staff from many congressional offices, first heard from Dr. Myra Jones Taylor, Zero to Three, and Chief Policy Officer. She retraced for staff the significant brain development that takes places in the first three years of life. Using a slide show she outlined how infants are born with billions of neurons but it is within these first three years that millions brain synopsis are formed each day and are influenced by an infant’s early interaction with parents and caretakers and the atmosphere that surrounds the child.
Helen Blank, the Woman’s National Law Center described recent activities of states to expand child care as a result of the $2.3 billion increase in child care funding for FY 2018 and FY 2019. States and governors have been using the influx of funds to increase eligibility, rates, quality of care and eliminated waiting lists in some states. The expansion touted by many governors is actually a direct result of the largest increase in federal child care (CCDBG) funding history. Helen Blank offered high praise to Congresswoman DeLauro for her advocacy and hard work as a member of the Appropriations Committee to cause these state expansion actions across the country.
Morgan Wilson, National Governors Association talked about the influx of new governors (20 new governors) and how their survey of all governors across the states highlight their strong support for increased child care and early childhood education initiatives with most governors ranking it at the top or near the very top of their priorities.
Both the panelists and Congresswoman highlighted how despite the progress of the last 12 months, much more is needed. Blank said that despite the significant increase, child care funding. When adjusted by inflation, is still $1 billion behind the peak funding levels of 2001.
Child care funding increases are likely to be an important part of the CWLA agenda for 2019.