Bipartisan Policy Center Argues for Increased Federal Investment in Child Care

In a June 13 article on TheHill.com, the Director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Linda Smith, outlines evidence and arguments for fully funding the federal program known as the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). According to Smith, the CCDBG is the largest federal funding source for child care.

Smith asserts that child care is a vital economic program as well as a social support that can help lift young families out of poverty. Accessible child care enables millions of parents to participate in the workforce, and most child care centers operate as small businesses. In addition, children and their families benefit from the educational aspects that nurture children’s development and lead to success in school and beyond.

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Even in light of all these advantages, creating a sustainable and equitable child care infrastructure has proven to be a challenge. The Bipartisan Policy Center believes “a comprehensive federal approach to child care should include not only federal spending but also tax incentives and paid family leave policies.” To move toward that goal, the Center advocates significantly increasing federal investment in the CCDBG.

The federal program dates back to 1990 and receives both mandatory funding as well as annual appropriations dollars. CCDBG disburses state-by-state block grants that in turn provide child care subsidies to low-income families. Qualifying children can be 12 or younger and typically live in families whose incomes are no more than 85% of their state’s median income, or SMI. States have the option to set eligibility below that income level, and most do.

With broad bipartisan support, CCDBG was last renewed in 2014 and was used to provide emergency assistance to child care providers during the COVID-19 shutdown and consequent recession. The Bipartisan Policy Center encourages the current Congress to pass legislation to fully fund CCDBG so the program can serve all eligible children living in families with incomes up to 85% of SMI.

The Center also wants states to be allowed to serve families with incomes up to 150% of SMI and says doing so could help approximately four million children up to age five. As currently constructed, CCDBG serves only 917,000 children in that age cohort. The policy organization argues that strong bipartisan action through full funding will make it possible for this existing, proven program to help address the massive need for child care in the U.S.