Trump Administration Would Cut Child Care and Early Education Investments

Updated May 25, 2017

By Hannah Matthews

Today, President Trump released his FY 2018 budget proposal, which is nothing short of an assault on low-income children and families.

The proposal would cut billions of dollars from health, human services, nutrition, and education—redirecting those funds as tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. While giving lip service to the importance of child care and early learning programs, the president’s budget would reduce early childhood funding. This would undermine efforts to raise quality of care and make programs more effective, as well as rip away services from hundreds of thousands of children. These cuts would be compounded by disinvestment in SNAP, Medicaid, and other benefits that promote healthy development and wellbeing for millions of young children and families.

The president’s budget would fund the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) at the FY 2016 level, eliminating the $95 million increase gained in the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill. CCDBG is the primary source of funding to help low-income families meet high child care costs and improve quality of care for all children.

Head Start and Early Head Start would also be funded at the 2016 level, resulting in an $85 million cut. The funding level is intended to maintain Head Start services for nearly 890,000 children, a small share of children currently eligible for Head Start’s comprehensive early childhood education services. 

After CCDBG, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant is the largest federal funding source for child care assistance to low-income families. In 2015—the most recent year for which data are available—states directed $2.6 billion in federal TANF funds to child care assistance, comprising nearly a third of total federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income families. The president’s budget would reduce core TANF funds by 10 percent ($1.6 billion per year) and also eliminate the $608 million TANF contingency fund available to some states. States already face competing priorities for a limited amount of funding, and this would further reduce available dollars for child care assistance.

The budget would also eliminate the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which provides flexible funding to states to meet a variety of needs for low-income children and families. This includes child care services, which comprised 11 percent of SSBG spending in 2014.

Budget documents suggest that nearly 200,000 children already lost child care assistance funded by CCDBG, TANF, and SSBG from 2012 to 2016 due to inadequate funding and project the loss of 300,000 additional children by 2022 with level funding. And 516,000 children would lose assistance by 2027.  Regular funding increases are needed to cover increases in the cost of child care over time and prevent children from losing assistance.  

These projections do not include the impact that the president’s proposed cuts to TANF and SSBG would likely have on the declining number of children receiving child care assistance. They also do not include the impact that discretionary spending caps or sequestration could have on reducing CCDBG funding in 2018 and beyond. If these funding implications were considered, a far greater number of children would lose child care assistance.

The president’s budget would also eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which provides critical summer, before-school, after-school child care for more than a million low-income children and youth. Additionally, it would eliminate the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) child care program for student parents. The children and parents impacted by these program cuts would be in addition to the half-million children projected to lose child care by 2027.   

The Trump Administration is reportedly seeking to improve the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (DCTC) to address child care affordability. While few details about the child care proposal are available, today’s budget makes clear that the Administration is not interesting in coupling a tax credit strategy with investments in direct assistance for families. Direct assistance is essential to help low-income families who struggle to pay child care costs on a weekly or monthly basis.  

Now, more than ever, we need increased funding for child care and Head Start. CCDBG’s 2014 bipartisan reauthorization made vital reforms to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care while making child care subsidies a more stable support for families. Failing to provide states with increased resources to implement CCDBG will result in fewer children getting CCDBG-funded child care. It will also hold back states from seizing opportunities to grow the supply of high-quality child care.

Millions of poor children already miss out on Head Start’s comprehensive early childhood model, which shows wide-ranging benefits for children and families at school entry and promotes positive adult outcomes later in life. This funding level would not provide programs the resources necessary to implement new performance standards that are intended to make Head Start even more impactful.

The president’s budget fails to invest in raising quality standards and expanding the reach of child care and early education programs. Moreover, in the president’s vision for America, low-income children served in child care and Head Start programs would face even greater challenges to their wellbeing. These kids and their parents would be stripped of health and nutrition benefits and economic supports. 

Today’s proposal is the first step in the Congressional budget process. Now, it’s time for Congress to weigh in. The House and Senate have the opportunity to outline spending priorities that invest in low-income children and families and make our country stronger.