As the states prepare to meet the new mandates of the $5.3 billion Child Care and Development Block Grant, they will enjoy greater flexibility in implementing the newly reauthorized funding program, but will have to do so with far less federal money.
In November 2014, Congress reauthorized CCDBG, the major federal child care program. This reauthorization presents an opportunity for states to help families access safe, reliable, affordable child care that allows parents to work and promotes children’s healthy development.
The reauthorization also entails new challenges—and new costs—for states as they work to comply with the law’s new requirements. The law’s objectives of raising health and safety standards for all children receiving CCDBG-funded child care and increasing the quality of care, according to a new analysis by the Center for Law and Social Policy, a social advocacy group.
However, states need to find a way to attain these mandates without diverting resources from other essential areas, such as maintaining families’ access to child care assistance.
Unlike the past two reauthorizations in 1990 and 1996, this law was not accompanied with a guarantee of significant new federal funds. While Congress recognized that some additional resources were needed to implement the law, it only increased the authorization levels for discretionary CCDBG funding (the funding specified each year in the annual appropriations measure) by 16 over six years, an increase of less than $400 million above total funding for FY 2014, CLASP says.
Moreover, these funds are not guaranteed and must be allocated by Congress each year. The law does not increase the mandatory portion of CCDBG funding (see chart). States are also required to contribute funding in the form of state matching and maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds. The absence of new resources to implement the law raises the possibility that states could make tradeoffs that will undermine the very goals of the reauthorization.
However, CLASP recommends that states should work to prevent such outcomes—and in particular, they should avoid reducing the number of children receiving child care assistance. Since 2006 alone, an estimated 315,000 children have lost child care assistance and HHS estimated that only one in six children eligible under federal eligibility rules actually received assistance in 2011. Further declines would deprive more families of the help they need, with negative consequences for their children, CLASP says.
For states to comply fully with the new requirements of the reauthorization while avoiding tradeoffs that harm children and families—and the child care providers who serve them—it will be essential for policymakers to appropriate significant new federal and state resources, CLASP says.
The legislation includes critical provisions to ensure the health and safety of children in child care settings, improve the quality of care, and make it easier for families to get and keep child care assistance. By giving states more flexibility to structure policies around the needs of children and families, the reauthorization also makes it easier to link the child care assistance program to other programs, including other early childhood education programs and additional supports for families, CLASP says.
|Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Funding|
|(in billions)||Federal Discretionary Mandatory||Federal Mandatory|