Increased Investments in Child Care Assistance Needed to Support Working Families
By 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), 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.
A new CLASP fact sheet provides an overview of the research showing why child care assistance is so important to low-income, vulnerable families. The fact sheet also highlights the need for increased investments in these programs, as the number of children receiving CCDBG-funded child care has been on the decline and reached a 15-year low in 2013. Spending on child care, which includes federal and state CCDBG and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, has also steadily decreased and, in 2013, reached the lowest levels since 2002.
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. Parents are working hard, yet are barely able to make ends meet. Higher-income families with young children spend, on average, 8 percent of their household income on child care, while poor families who do not get any help spend 36 percent.
With an already-significant unmet need, increased federal investments in CCDBG should be a top priority for federal policymakers. In November 2014, CCDBG was reauthorized for the first time in 18 years. While this was an important step forward for improving the quality of child care, substantial funding increases are necessary to implement the costly provisions in the reauthorization and to reach more families. Evidence shows that child care subsidies are associated with sustainable employment for parents and improved child outcomes. State and federal policymakers should seize the opportunity of last fall’s bipartisan reauthorization in order to increase investments that support working families and their children.