On November 17, the Senate gave final approval to a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 by a vote of 96 to 2. The vote represented the first time the law had been reauthorized since 1996 when it was extended and adopted as part of that year’s creation of the TANF block grant. Currently child care funding includes $2.3 billion in annual appropriations but also includes a mandatory fund written into the TANF law with that child care funding part currently set at $2.9 billion. Since 2001 the annual appropriations has exceeded what was authorized, the new law eventually raises the authorization to $2.7 billion by 2020. The President gave it his quick signature a few days later.
The reauthorization has the effect of setting the rules for all child care spending (including the part that is mandatory). Included in the new requirements are background checks for child care workers. It also increases the current percentage of funds states must invest into quality improvements to an eventual 9 percent from the current 5 percent set aside and also includes a requirement to invest 3 percent into improve the quality and access to infant and toddler child care. Additional quality improvements are the enhanced training requirements states will have to provide to child care workers and greater coordination between early childhood programs. States must also provide at least one announced inspection of child care facilities each year.
The new reauthorization also attempts to make child care subsidies stronger for families. States must provide 12 months of child care subsidy instead the current state patchwork which frequently requires a parent to re-determine eligibility with the slightest changes in work hours or earnings. It also encourages states to provide three months of child care subsides if a parent looses their job since child care subsidies have always been tied to work.
The two lone votes against the bill was Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). Senator Coburn more recently became known to the child welfare community when he blocked passage of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act last July. His hold was eventually released only after he was able to move an unrelated bill just hours before the Senate ended its September work. Senator Coburn is leaving the Senate at the end of this session.