US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin, Alexander, Mikulski, Burr Urge Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Help American Families Access Safe, Affordable, and Quality Child Care

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC) today urged Senate passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014, a bipartisan reauthorization that will expand access to and improve the quality of child care for the more than 1.5 million children and families that benefit from the federal child care subsidy program. The law has been due for reauthorization since 2002.

Harkin and Alexander are chairman and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, while Mikulski and Burr are the former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families. The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the Committee in September 2013, represents the 17th bipartisan HELP Committee bill in the 113th Congress to be considered by the full Senate. Ten of those bills have already been signed into law.

“Child care is a consideration for all working families—and every parent wants to know that they can entrust their son or daughter to affordable, capable childcare that doesn’t sacrifice on quality or safety,” Senator Harkin said. “This bipartisan bill will not only enhance quality and safety, but will also ensure that low-income and at-risk children and families have access to affordable care, promote the healthy development of children enrolled, and improve services for children with disabilities who require care—improvements that all reflect our greater understanding of what makes a successful child care program. I am encouraged by the HELP Committee’s growing record of bipartisan accomplishments, and this bill is a testament to how Congress can enact meaningful change by working together across party lines.”

“Each year, the Child Care Development Block Grant program helps more than 1.5 million low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee, have the kind of early learning and care that can help put them on the same starting line as other children,” Senator Alexander said. “The program works because it supports parents going to work or getting an education, and gives them the freedom to choose the child care that is right for their family. With this reauthorization, which passed our committee unanimously, Sens. Burr and Mikulski have given us a model for getting results in the Senate.”

“Every working parent with children no matter their income level worries about child care. What’s affordable? What’s accessible? Will my child be safe? Where can I get the very best care for my kid? It is not enough to simply ensure that kids have someplace to go. We must also ensure that they go someplace that is safe, that nurtures their development, that challenges their mind and that prepares them for school,” Senator Mikulski said. “It’s time we revitalize, refresh and reform the vitally important CCDBG program to support child care providers, give parents peace of mind and better prepare our children for the future.”

“As a dad, I understand that it is always difficult to balance work and family. But for many families, especially single parent households, having access to affordable child care is the only way they can work and not be dependent on welfare. The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is an important federal program that splits the cost of child care with working families to make sure that affordable, quality options exist for them," said Senator Burr. “CCDBG is a welfare reform success story that encourages personal responsibility. The transparency we incorporate in this law will go a long way toward making parents well-informed consumers of child care and improve the safety of the programs. It is of particular importance to me that federal dollars will no longer go to child care providers who have been convicted of violent crimes. CCDBG also places an emphasis on improving the quality of our childcare facilities over the next several years. This is not another Washington entitlement but an investment in the self-sufficiency of some of our hardest working families.”

When the CCDBG program was last reauthorized in 1996, the program rightly focused primarily on workforce aid. But in the intervening years, more has been learned about the necessity of not just providing children with a place to go, but also the importance of providing them with high-quality care. Last Congress, Mikulski and Burr held three public hearings—consulting with parents, childcare providers and early learning and developmental experts and other child care advocacy organizations—to explore how best the CCDBG program could be reauthorized and improved.

The CCDBG reauthorization bill incorporates feedback and suggestions provided to the Committee since 2012. The bill requires states to devote more of their funding to quality initiatives, such as: training, professional development, and professional advancement of the child care workforce. The bill ensures that CCDBG providers meet certain health and safety requirements related to prevention and control of infectious diseases, first aid and CPR, child abuse prevention, administration of medication, prevention of and response to emergencies due to food allergies, prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and shaken baby syndrome, building and physical premises safety, and emergency response planning. The legislation gives families more stability in the CCDBG program and works to improve early childhood care also by requiring states to focus on infant and toddler quality initiatives. Finally, the bill requires mandatory background checks for child care providers in the CCDBG program.

A summary of the bill can be seen here.

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