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

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC) today applauded 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 chairwoman 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 25th bipartisan HELP Committee bill in the 113th Congress to be considered by the full Senate. Eighteen of those bills have already been signed into law.

“An essential part of helping working families succeed is ensuring access to safe, affordable, and quality child care,” Harkin said. “Today’s Senate passage of this critical, bipartisan measure will strengthen quality and safety standards in child care settings while also ensuring that low-income and at-risk children and families have access to the affordable care they need. I am pleased this bill to promote the healthy development of our children will soon become law, and proud to be able to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to add to the HELP Committee’s record of bipartisan accomplishments.”

“Today the Senate sends to the president’s desk a bill that will help nearly 21,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the care that is best for their family,” said Alexander, the top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee. “Every month, an average of 39,000 Tennessee children get childcare through this program while their parents earn an education or build a career. The legislation passed today will continue success stories like the Memphis mother whose infant received care through this program while she earned a business degree and rose to assistant manager at a Walmart, enabling her to pay for the care of her second child at the same childcare center.”

“Today’s bipartisan action by the Senate to refresh and reform the vitally important CCDBG program is good news that will bring peace of mind to the thousands of Maryland families who rely upon this program for child care. I introduced this legislation together with Senator Burr to ensure that child care across America is available, affordable, reliable, safe and exceptional,” Senator Mikulski said. “This bill reforms and refreshes important child care legislation, so moms and dads of modest means can afford child care while they go to work or school. Child care is something all families worry about, regardless of income or zip code. I look forward to this bill being signed into law so we can help ensure all children get the care they need and deserve so they and their families can have a better, brighter future.”

“After years of hard work with Senator Mikulski, I am pleased that the Senate has passed this bipartisan, commonsense piece of legislation that will foster the development of children across this nation,” said Senator Burr. “CCDBG is a welfare reform success story -- supporting the safety and education of our children while empowering parents to take control of their own future. This legislation promotes transparency so parents can be well-informed consumers of child care while ensuring federal dollars will no longer go to child care providers who have been convicted of violent crimes.  I am proud to have played a part in this major achievement in helping children and their hardworking 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.