Child Care Assistance—A Key Support for Working Families—Needs More Robust Funding

By Stephanie Schmit

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), the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families, increases the number of low-income children in high-quality care, supporting their development while strengthening their families’ economic security. CCDBG was reauthorized in 2014 with near-unanimous bipartisan approval in Congress. States are now in the process of implementing the reauthorization which strengthens CCDBG’s dual role as both a major early childhood education program and a work support for low-income families.

CLASP’s most recent analysis shows:

  • Child care assistance spending is at a 12-year low. Total combined spending on child care assistance (including funds from CCDBG and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF) fell to $11.3 billion, a decline of $103 million from the previous year and the lowest level of spending since 2002.
  • The number of children receiving CCDBG–funded child care assistance is at a 16-year low. Approximately 1.4 million children received CCDBG-funded child care in an average month in 2014, the smallest number of children served by the program since 1998. From 2006 to 2014, nearly 364,000 fewer children received CCDBG-funded child care.
  • Significant investments are needed to implement the bipartisan CCDBG reauthorization without further reducing access to child care subsidies. CLASP estimates that an additional $1.2 billion is needed in FY 2017 to implement the reauthorization and maintain current caseloads.

With an already-significant unmet need, increased federal investments in CCDBG should be a top priority for federal policymakers. Evidence shows that child care subsidies are associated with sustainable employment for parents and improved child outcomes. Far more resources will be needed to implement the law and stem the tide of declining CCDBG participation. Even further investments will be needed over time to implement additional provisions of the reauthorization and expand assistance for more eligible families. State and federal policymakers should seize the opportunity of the reauthorization to increase investments that support working families and their children.