A Closer Look at State Child Care Subsidy Eligibility Policies

By Hannah Matthews and Christone Johnson-Staub

Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), states determine a large number of policies that have an enormous impact on which low-income families receive child care assistance, as well as children’s experiences in child care (for example, whether children can attend on a regular basis, all day, or only during the hours their parents are on the job). As part of the Work Support Strategies project, CLASP and Urban Institute have identified a set of child care subsidy policies that, because they are particularly burdensome for both parents and CCDBG administering agencies, are ripe for simplification. The recent CCDBG reauthorization established new federal requirements, but states still have considerable flexibility in setting a number of subsidy eligibility policies.

A new policy brief explores state policy choices in establishing minimum hour work requirements for subsidy eligibility; requiring verification of job schedule and hours; and matching children’s child care hours precisely to parents’ work hours. The paper highlights recent trends in work activity and schedule policies in states, and offers recommendations for how states can simplify polices to improve the receipt and retention of child care assistance by low-income families.

This is an opportune time for states to consider the full range of child care subsidy policies and to make reforms in line with goals of the reauthorization, which are to increase continuity of care, increase access to high-quality child care, and reduce client and administrative burden in the program. Moreover, trends in the low-wage labor market underscore the necessity of improving current policies to better meet the needs of low-income parents who are increasingly employed in environments where work hours are unpredictable and volatile – where hours change from week to week or even day to day, and employees have little advance notice of their schedules. Volatile and unpredictable work hours pose challenges to all workers, but for parents they present an urgent challenge around finding, keeping, and paying for child care. Parents may have trouble finding child care arrangements flexible enough to accommodate changing schedules, which also raise challenging implications for state policies governing access to child care assistance under the CCDBG.   

By simplifying eligibility and verification requirements, states can reduce client and administrative burden, support parental employment, improve continuity of care for children, and increase access to quality child care.

Read Job Hours and Schedules:Implications for State Child Care and Development Fund Policies.

Read more from the Work Support Strategies initiative >>