Child Care Reauthorization Promotes Access and Stability
In November 2014, with broad bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for the first time since 1996. In addition to protecting the health and safety of children in care and improving the quality of care, the new law contains provisions aimed at making it easier for low-income working families to access child care subsidies and to keep their children in stable care even in the face of unpredictable changes in employment.
Among the key provisions are:
- Once a child has been determined to be eligible for child care assistance under CCDBG, states must consider that child eligible for a minimum of 12 months regardless of temporary changes in a parent’s work, education or training activities, or family income, as long as income does not exceed the federal eligibility levels.
- States may not terminate child care assistance based on permanent job loss or cessation of education and training without continuing assistance for at least three months to provide time for the parents to search for a new job.
The law thus strengthens CCDBG’s dual role as a major early childhood education program and a work support for low-income families. Children can attend child care without instability in parental employment causing additional instability for child care, and parents who temporarily lose jobs or whose hours of employment fluctuate will not lose their child care assistance as a result.
Policymakers and advocates who work on any public benefit programs should be aware of these changes, both because child care is a critical work support for low-income families, and because these changes can set the standard for other programs where states set policy regarding redeterminations and continuous eligibility. For example, the new law requires states to describe how their redetermination procedures and policies do not require working parents, and in particular parents receiving cash assistance under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to disrupt employment in order to comply. Such policies should be adopted in all public benefit programs. Other agencies that have modernized their eligibility systems to make improvements such as maximizing use of existing data and allowing clients to self-report certain data may also be able to assist child care agencies in implementing the new provisions.
The reauthorization does not guarantee new funding to comply with its many new requirements, some of which will be costly to implement. Spending on child care assistance through CCDBG and TANF is at an 11-year low. Already, only one in six children federally eligible for child care receive assistance, and unless states are able to increase funding for child care assistance, states may serve fewer families.
States have until October 1, 2016 to comply with these provisions. While details on how these requirements will be implemented are still forthcoming, now is the time for policymakers and advocates who work on both child care assistance and other programs for low-income families to set forth a vision for what a child care system that meets the needs of both parents and children would look like, and to build support for the resources needed to realize that vision.
For more information, see:
- Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization: A Guide for StatesThis guide, written jointly by CLASP and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), 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 law, offering recommendations and cautions 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. The chapter
- Confronting the Child Care Eligibility Maze: Simplifying and Aligning with Other Work Supports. This report helps states confront burdensome administrative processes that make it difficult for low-income families to get and keep child care benefits, and the cumulative challenges clients face in trying to access other benefits for which they are eligible (i.e. SNAP/Medicaid).