In Focus: Systems and Financing

Jul 24, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Child Care Assistance: An Essential Work Support Program for Families

By Hannah Matthews and Christina Walker

Quality child care enables parents to work or go to school while also providing young children with the early childhood education experiences needed for healthy development. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal program that provides funding for child care assistance for low-income working parents. Child care assistance is a vital public investment that increases the sustainability of employment for low-income parents and provides stability for parents struggling to gain economic security. It also allows many parents to access higher-quality care than they could otherwise afford.

In spite of several years of post-recession economic recovery, the percentage of Americans living in poverty remains high. The majority of parents with young children work. More than 30 percent of poor children and half of low-income children – living in families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level –lived in families with at least one worker employed full-time, year-round.  

For parents working in low-wage jobs, paying the high costs of child care is a struggle. The average annual costs of center-based care for a 4-year-old ranges from $4,312 in Mississippi to $12,355 in New York.  Nationwide, families living below poverty who pay for child care spend approximately 30 percent of their income, which is significantly higher when compared to families not in poverty who pay 8 percent of their income.

A new CLASP brief highlights why child care assistance is an essential work support program for low-income working families and provides evidence that these subsidies are associated with sustainable employment for parents and improved child outcomes. It makes the case for why additional investments at the federal and state level are critical.

Read the full brief here>>

Jun 26, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Low-Wage Parents’ Child Care Struggles

By Rhiannon Reeves and Christina Walker

Too often, parents employed in low-wage jobs encounter working conditions that make it difficult to meet their families’ basic needs, particularly access to high-quality child care. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Ms. Foundation for Women finds that low pay, difficult scheduling practices, lack of supports like paid sick days or family leave, and discrimination leave low-wage workers (a majority of whom are women) with few options for their children’s care. Parents’ volatile work schedules, which are becoming characteristic of low-wage work, put the economic well-being of these families and the healthy development of young children at risk.

Survey and focus groups of employees from a range of low-wage service industries, conducted by the NWLC and partner worker justice organizations, representing employees from a range of low-wage service industries, found that families in poverty spend approximately 30 percent of their income on child care—if they can afford to pay for care at all. Unpredictable work schedules, such as variations from day to day or week to week, as well as work during nonstandard hours, make it difficult for these parents to find high-quality, reliable child care and near impossible for them to access child care assistance programs.  Additionally, employers’ practices frequently disadvantage low-wage working parents and their children because when parents are unable to find child care or child care falls through, they must miss work and lose pay.  Lastly, the report details how immigrant parents in low-wage jobs often face additional challenges to accessing child care due to concerns about their immigration status or language barriers.

In spite of these challenges, there are practical steps that policymakers can take to advance a job quality and early childhood agenda that improves the lives of low-wage workers and their families.  These steps include developing public policies to increase job schedule predictability and stability and creating more flexible child care subsidy options.

Given the growth in the number of low-wage jobs, now is the time for private companies and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels to adopt policy changes that support low-wage workers with families. Better child care options, more flexibility with child care subsidies, and improved working conditions are necessary for low-wage workers to better provide for the needs of their families.

Jun 11, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Senate Subcommittee Increases Federal Early Education Investments

By Hannah Matthews

Yesterday, as part of the 2015 appropriations process, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies marked up a bill that includes more than $348 million in new funding for child care and early education programs. The Subcommittee approved:

  • A $145 million increase for Head Start, including $80 million for a cost-of-living increase for existing grantees and $65 million for Early Head Start, including funding for Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grants.
  • A $100 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help states improve quality while maintaining access for low-income families.
  • A $100 million increase for Preschool Development Grants to help states initiate or implement high-quality preschool programs for low-income families. 
  • And a $3.3 million increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C for services for infants and toddlers and their families.

This significant investment in the context of a very tight budget shows once again that many federal policymakers understand the critical importance of investing in our youngest children. The full Senate Appropriations committee is expected to take up the bill later this week. The House has not yet released a companion spending bill.

Read a summary of the Subcommittee bill>>

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