In Focus: Child Care Subsidies

Oct 27, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Child Care and Development Block Grant Participation at a 15-Year Low

By Hannah Matthews

Participation in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) has fallen for the third consecutive year to a 15-year low. Fewer children were served in 2013 than in 1998.

In February of this year, CLASP first reported that the number of children receiving child care funded by CCDBG had reached a 14-year low. CCDBG provides critical help to low-income parents so they can work and meet the high costs of child care. With the release of an additional year of data by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reflecting participation in the program in 2013, the overall picture of child care assistance continues to worsen.

In 2013, 1.46 million children received CCDBG-funded child care in an average month. Not since 1997 have so few children gotten help. With increased investments in the early part of the decade, the program served 1.8 million children at its high mark and has since steadily dropped. Since 2006 alone, 315,000 children have lost child care assistance, an 18 percent drop. When looking at individual states, the decline in children served over six years is as much as 72 percent in Maine, 54 percent in the District of Columbia, 53 percent in Mississippi, 52 percent in Idaho, and 47 percent in Michigan.

Even before this latest drop, HHS estimated that only 18 percent of children eligible for assistance under federal rules actually got any help. Coupled with the decline in children served is a 10-year low in state and federal child care assistance expenditures.

Families need child care to go to work and children need quality child care that supports early learning and healthy development. High rates of poverty, low wages, and poor-quality jobs, make it nearly impossible for low-income parents to get ahead. For parents who do receive help, CCDBG is a lifeline and can make the difference between taking—and keeping—a job to support their families or not. It can also mean accessing higher-quality child care options for their children.  Moreover, CCDBG benefits families and child care programs across the country by providing the bulk of funding to improve the quality of child care, the core of our country’s early learning system. CCDBG funds Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), teacher scholarships and professional development, and basic monitoring of facilities for compliance with health and safety standards.

This week, the National Women’s Law Center released its annual report on state child care subsidy policies. The good news is that subsidy policies have shown modest improvements over the last few years with some states raising their income eligibility limits for parents to qualify for help and either raising provider payments rates or at least holding rates constant. That said, the system continues to show enormous gaps with thousands of children on waiting lists and provider reimbursement rates alarmingly low. Only one state pays providers at the federally recommended level, compared to 22 states that paid at that level in 2001, and in most states even the highest payment rates for higher-quality care fail to meet the federal benchmark.

In three weeks, Congress is expected to pass a long-overdue reauthorization of CCDBG.  Improvements to the program included in the pending bill reflect consensus that it is no longer suitable to accept minimal quality child care, inadequate health and safety standards, or overly burdensome eligibility policies that wreak havoc on parent’s employment and make continuity of care impossible for children. But those improvements will be for naught unless we stem the tide on this declining participation and take seriously the need for significant investments in child care at the federal, state, and local levels.

For state-by-state participation trends, view our factsheet >>

Sep 15, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Congress Moves Forward on Child Care Reauthorization Bill

By Hannah Matthews

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014, as amended. This legislation advances an essential work support program for low-income parents who struggle to find and keep employment that provides for their families. The bill is expected to be considered by the Senate in the coming days. It’s been nearly 20 years since CCDBG was last reauthorized.

The bipartisan CCDBG Act of 2014 is an important step forward for improving the health and safety of child care. It would make crucial improvements to the program by allowing children to have more sustained access to child care assistance, which helps parents stay and move up in their jobs, while also supporting children’s healthy development by providing greater continuity of care.  The updated law seeks to improve the overall quality of child care (especially for infants and toddlers). High quality infant-toddler care is particularly unaffordable for low-income families.

While CLASP supports the legislation’s goals, we note that it will take significant additional resources—well beyond the bill’s authorized levels—for states to implement new provisions and ensure that low-income families retain access to CCDBG. As of 2012, the number of children served in CCDBG had already fallen to a 14-year low due to insufficient federal funding.

Reauthorizing CCDBG is a landmark moment in our long-term agenda to ensure poor and low-income children have access to high-quality child care options that meet their families’ needs. As the Senate takes its turn voting, CLASP looks forward to working with Congress to appropriate the funding necessary to implement the updated law’s important improvements.  We are also excited to work with states to rethink and reform their child care subsidy programs to improve child care quality and better support working families.

Aug 26, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

New Fact Sheets on 2012 CCDBG Participation at All Ages

By Hannah Matthews and Rhiannon Reeves

Three new fact sheets from CLASP provide information on child care services funded by the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). In 2012, the program provided child care assistance for 1.5 million children. CCDBG is the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families and to improve child care quality. It typically provides child care assistance to children from birth to age 13.

Based on preliminary state-reported data from the federal Office of Child Care, the fact sheets reveal the great variability in child care assistance programs among states. In 2012, highlights include:

  • The number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care fell to its lowest levels since 1998. Several states reported decreases of up to 35 percent in numbers of children served between 2011 and 2012.
  • Ninety-three percent of families receiving CCDBG were working and/or in education or training programs.
  • CCDBG serves children from diverse backgrounds. Forty-three percent of children served were white; 42 percent were African American; 1 percent were Native American or Alaskan Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; 3 percent were multi-racial; and a race was not reported for 8 percent of children.
  • Sixty-three percent of CCDBG families paid co-payments for child care, with the mean co-payment amount being 7 percent of a family’s income.

Fact sheets on Infants and Toddlers in CCDBG: 2012 Update and School-Age Children in CCDGB: 2012 Update highlight key information about younger and older groups of children receiving child care assistance through CCDBG.

  • Nationally, 28 percent of children served by CCDBG in 2012 were under age 3, 39 percent were ages 3 to 5, and 33 percent were ages 6 to 13.
  • Nearly 64 percent of infants and toddlers in CCDBG live in families with household incomes below the federal poverty level.
  • Sixty-five percent of infants, 70 percent of toddlers, and 62 percent of school-aged children served through CCDBG are cared for in center-based settings.

State-specific information on CCDBG participation is also available via CLASP's DataFinder tool.

View CCDBG Participation in 2012 fact sheets here>>

View Infants and Toddlers in CCDBG: 2012 Update here>>

View School-Age Children in CCDGB: 2012 Update here>>

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