High-quality child care and early education can build a strong foundation for young children's healthy development and ensure that children have all they need to thrive. This knowledge drives CLASP's work to promote policies that support both child development and the needs of low-income working parents. We support policies that expand resources for child care and early education initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels.  We also study the relationships between child care subsidy systems, Head Start and Early Head Start, state pre-kindergarten programs, and other birth to five early education efforts, to advance ideas that ensure these systems address the full range of needs of children and families. 

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Dec 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

The 2015 “CRomnibus” and What It Means for Low-Income People

After pushing the deadline to the limit, both the U.S. Senate and House have approved a bill to fund the federal government—with the exception of the Department  of Homeland Security—through the end of the 2015 fiscal year on September 30, 2015, averting what would have been a second federal shutdown in as many years.  The bill was dubbed a “CRomnibus” because it is a hybrid between a continuing resolution (CR) often used for short-term budget extensions and an omnibus budget bill, which typically funds the federal budget for an entire fiscal year. 

Importantly, the bill provides stability for the forthcoming year, allowing for continuity of services and planning.  On the other hand, because of the constraints of the budget caps that Congress previously agreed to, while some important programs received modest increased funding (discussed below), overall the bill failed to restore the cuts made over the past few years to domestic discretionary spending, let alone allocate the increases it would take to adequately respond to the overall levels of need. In the context of a tight budget with strict caps on funding levels, a number of priorities important for low-income people were level funded or cut.

These inadequate programmatic levels would have fallen even further short if not for the additional flexibility negotiated as part of the 2013 Murray-Ryan budget deal.  That budget deal protected the FY 2014 and FY 2015 budgets from the full impact of the spending caps enforced by automatic cuts—the so-called “sequester”—that Congress put in place under the Budget Control Act of 2011 to cover the fiscal years until 2021.  But in FY 2016, unless Congress chooses differently, the full impact of the sequester will be imposed—meaning draconian cuts far below these FY 2015 levels.  That makes the stakes very high for Congress’s upcoming budget deliberations.  In addition, so-called “mandatory” federal programs, such as Social Security, Medicaid and SNAP, which are not included in the appropriations bills or subject to the sequester, may also be at risk as Congress considers a deal.

Child Care and Early Education

The bill includes a $75 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in 2015.  This increase in CCDBG is an important signal that the bipartisan reauthorization of CCDGB passed by Congress and signed into law last month, will require additional resources. Far more resources are needed to support successful implementation of the new law and reverse the current downward trend in the number of children served by CCDBG. The budget bill also maintains at the same level as 2014 the $500 million in funding for Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships and $250 million for the second year of funding for preschool development grants.

Postsecondary Education and Training

The budget provides modest increases to student aid and workforce training programs, while unfortunately cutting Pell Grant funding (the largest federal grant program for low-income undergraduate students).  While Pell grants received a $100 increase in the maximum annual award from $5,730 to $5,830 for the 2015-16 academic year, overall funding was cut by $303 million. The cut will not lead to harmful eligibility changes to the program in the current academic year because the Pell Grant program is currently running a surplus. But, the program is projected to face a significant shortfall in FY 2016 and beyond. In the past, shortfalls have harmed non-traditional students because of eligibility changes that have included setting a cap on the number of semesters for receipt of Pell Grants and eliminating summer Pell awards. Cutting the program funding now, instead of saving the current surplus for future leaner years, sets a dangerous precedent.  

This bill also partially reinstates the ability-to-benefit (ATB) provision, which provides Pell Grant and student loan access to low-income students who lack a high school diploma or equivalent and who enroll in a career pathways program, enabling them to receive student aid by passing an exam or successfully completing six credit hours. The change goes into effect immediately, but the amount of Pell Grant for which ATB students will be eligible varies based on enrollment date. Those who enter a career pathways program before July 1, 2015, will be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,830, while those enrolling after July 1, 2015, will be limited to only the maximum discretionary Pell Grant award of $4,860.

Among several other items in the budget related to postsecondary education and training, the bill increases state grants for adult, dislocated workers and youth training and employment services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), Title I funding, by a total of $36 million over the prior year’s appropriated level.  For more details on how the budget affects postsecondary education and training, click here.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The CRomnibus also extended authority and funding for the TANF block grant through September 30, 2015.  TANF has been due for reauthorization since 2010, but Congress has repeatedly extended it through short-term measures since then.  TANF was briefly allowed to expire during last year’s government shutdown.

CCDBG Reauthorization

CLASP resources on the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 reauthorization and implementation. READ MORE »
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