Child care will get some special attention this week when the Senate begins debate on a reauthorization (S. 1086) of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and the President unveils his budget on Tuesday.

S. 1086 would be the first reauthorization of CCDBG since the 1996 welfare reform law was adopted. It was selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as legislation that has a potential to garner bipartisan support. As an authorization it is not mandatory funding, but provides the framework for the annual appropriations process. Total child care funding includes $2.3 billion in annual appropriations and also a mandatory fund written into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF/Title IV-A of the Social Security Act), which is currently set at $2.9 billion. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The legislation found common ground by seeking to increase program licensing standards and certain protections by requiring annual inspections. The bill would also protect families by requiring annual re-determinations of child care eligibility rather than the current system in many states that may require families to re-apply for eligibility every time their job status changes (e.g., hours worked). The bill would also make improvements in consumer information for families and seeks to improve the amount of funds invested in quality improvement spending.

The President will also unveil his budget tomorrow and his administration will include, as they did last year, a proposal to strengthen early childhood education. In addition to the provisions to create and expand pre-k programs and Head Start, the President proposed $500 million in mandatory child care funding under TANF. These funds require a state match so actual funding would leverage additional state funds for child care services. In addition, the administration included a request for $200 million in appropriated discretionary funds to improve the quality of current child care. States would qualify only if they meet certain quality improvement efforts.