In Focus: Child Care Subsidies

Apr 28, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

A Closer Look at State Child Care Subsidy Eligibility Policies

By Hannah Matthews and Christine Johnson-Staub

Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), states determine a large number of policies that have an enormous impact on which low-income families receive child care assistance, as well as children’s experiences in child care (for example, whether children can attend on a regular basis, all day, or only during the hours their parents are on the job). As part of the Work Support Strategies project, CLASP and Urban Institute have identified a set of child care subsidy policies that, because they are particularly burdensome for both parents and CCDBG administering agencies, are ripe for simplification. The recent CCDBG reauthorization established new federal requirements, but states still have considerable flexibility in setting a number of subsidy eligibility policies.

A new policy brief explores state policy choices in establishing minimum hour work requirements for subsidy eligibility; requiring verification of job schedule and hours; and matching children’s child care hours precisely to parents’ work hours. The paper highlights recent trends in work activity and schedule policies in states, and offers recommendations for how states can simplify polices to improve the receipt and retention of child care assistance by low-income families.

This is an opportune time for states to consider the full range of child care subsidy policies and to make reforms in line with goals of the reauthorization, which are to increase continuity of care, increase access to high-quality child care, and reduce client and administrative burden in the program. Moreover, trends in the low-wage labor market underscore the necessity of improving current policies to better meet the needs of low-income parents who are increasingly employed in environments where work hours are unpredictable and volatile – where hours change from week to week or even day to day, and employees have little advance notice of their schedules. Volatile and unpredictable work hours pose challenges to all workers, but for parents they present an urgent challenge around finding, keeping, and paying for child care. Parents may have trouble finding child care arrangements flexible enough to accommodate changing schedules, which also raise challenging implications for state policies governing access to child care assistance under the CCDBG.   

By simplifying eligibility and verification requirements, states can reduce client and administrative burden, support parental employment, improve continuity of care for children, and increase access to quality child care.

Read Job Hours and Schedules: Implications for State Child Care and Development Fund Policies.

Read more from the Work Support Strategies initiative >>

Apr 1, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP Publishes Guide for States on CCDBG Reauthorization

By Hannah Matthews

Today, CLASP and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released an implementation guide for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization.

In November 2014, with broad bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized CCDBG (the major federal child care program) for the first time since 1996. The new law strengthens CCDBG’s dual role as a major early childhood education program and a work support for low-income families.

Key provisions in the law support the following goals:

  • Protecting the health and safety of children in care through more consistent standards and monitoring of standards;
  • Improving the quality of care, including through increased supports for child care providers; and
  • Enabling families to more easily access child care assistance that supports stable and continuous care and that can be coordinated with other programs.

This implementation guide is designed to help policymak­ers and advocates gain a better understanding of what is entailed in fully implementing the law. It summarizes and analyzes key sections of the reauthorization, offering recommendations and areas of caution for states. It also includes a detailed chart compar­ing specific provisions of the new law with those of the previous law, an implementation timeline, a checklist indicating state compliance with select provisions of the law, a summary of the law, and state-by-state information on CCDBG funding and children served.

To fulfill the goals of the legislation, states will need to be strategic and thoughtful about implementation, including paying careful attention to the funding necessary to carry out the provisions. Unlike previous reautho­rizations, this law was not accompanied with a guarantee of new federal funds—and in many states, the new law will have substantial costs. Additional federal and state resources will be essential to ensure that states do not make tradeoffs that would undermine the reauthorization's goals and further reduce the number of children served, which is already at historic lows.

To achieve the full vision of the CCDBG reauthorization and avoid tradeoffs that harm children and families—and the child care providers who serve them—thoughtful implementation and new resources will be essential. CLASP and NWLC will continue to work closely with those involved in implementing the law in states and at the federal level to realize the potential benefits of the reauthorization.

Read Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization>>

Register for the CLASP/NWLC CCDBG Implementation webinar on April 15, from 2-3pm EDT >>

Mar 24, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Five out of Six Eligible Children Unable to Access Child Care Assistance

By Christina Walker 

Child care assistance helps low-income families obtain the child care they need so parents can go to work or school. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal program that funds child care subsidies for low-income, working parents. States also direct funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to child care, although those funds have declined significantly in recent years. Research has shown that subsidies provide stability for families struggling to gain economic security while allowing families to access higher-quality child care than they could otherwise afford.

A new issue brief released by The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently updated estimates of the share of eligible children served by all funding sources, including CCDBG and TANF. In 2011, only 17 percent—or one in six children—eligible under federal rules actually received any help, leaving five in six children without any assistance. When compared to ASPE’s prior estimate in 2009, the share of eligible children receiving child care assistance declined about 1.5 percent: 100,000 fewer children overall received assistance, even though the number of eligible children increased by nearly 500,000. 

This report highlights the worsening trend in the number of children receiving child care assistance. In 2013, only 1.46 million children received CCDBG-funded subsidies (including TANF transfers to CCDBG) in an average month, which is the lowest number of children served in 15 years. Spending on child care assistance has simultaneously been on the decline, reaching its lowest level since 2002.

From 2011 to 2013, more than 168,000 children lost assistance through CCDBG funds – a 10 percent decrease, suggesting that future analyses may show an even smaller share of eligible children receiving subsidies. This decline comes at a time when states are just beginning to understand and address the increased costs of implementing new requirements included in the 2014 CCDBG reauthorization. Increasing investment in child care assistance should be a top priority for federal and state policymakers to support the costs of reauthorization and stem the tide on the declining number of children getting help. CCDBG is an important investment that helps families gain employment stability and economic security and promotes continuity in child care arrangements that benefits children’s development.

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