States Holding the Line on Child Care Policies
Sep 29, 2009
Today, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) released its annual report on state child care subsidy policies, State Child Care Assistance Policies 2009: Most States Hold the Line, But Some Lose Ground in Hard Times. The report compiles essential data on state child care assistance policies. NWLC finds that most states did not make significant changes in their subsidy policies in the last year. However, those that did, took steps to reduce access to subsidies for low-income parents. Moreover, when compared to the peak year of child care funding in 2001, most states had child care policies in February 2009 that were more restrictive.
Key findings of the report include:
- Nine states have set provider payment rates at the level recommended in federal guidelines so that a parent can access at least 75 percent of care in their local child care market, compared to 22 states in 2001.
- Only 35 states increased their income eligibility limits to keep pace with or surpass the rise in the federal poverty level in the past year. Half of the states still have income eligibility limits set lower as a percentage of poverty than in 2001.
- Nineteen states had waiting lists for child care assistance in 2009, compared to 22 states in 2001. In nine states, the number of children on the waiting lists increased in the last year. Waiting lists are as high as 220,069 children in California and 57,671 children in Florida.
In February 2009, with passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), states received an additional $2 billion in funding for CCDBG. The NWLC report covers a time period prior to receipt of ARRA funds, and also prior to deepening economic troubles in many states. In some states, budgets shortfalls have restricted the availability of funds for child care. While ARRA funds in other states have allowed states to maintain or increase child care services.
The extent to which state child care assistance programs will ultimately move forward or backwards is unknown and will depend on many factors including the pace of economic recovery and the use of ARRA funds. While the ARRA funds were an important investment for supporting low-income families during the recession, they are considered temporary. It will take additional funds in the future to maintain any progress made and ensure that low-income families retain the help they need to go to work and to access care for their children. Tracking ARRA investments is vitally important to ensure that funds are spent effectively in ways that improve the quality of child care and help low‐income families recover from the economic crisis and ultimately build the case for permanent funding.