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Harkin Statement on HELP Committee’s Bipartisan Vote to Reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today released the following statement after the Committee voted to pass the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 (CCDBG), a bill 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:

“In the nearly 20 years since the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act was last reauthorized, we have learned a great deal about child development, and the factors that contribute to successful child care programs,” Chairman Harkin said. “Child care is a critical support for virtually every working parent, and this bipartisan bill will enhance quality and safety, 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. This is a bill that reflects input from members of our Committee on both sides of the aisle, and I am pleased that the HELP Committee has moved forward on this critical bill.”

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 represents a comprehensive, bipartisan reauthorization of a law that was last revised in 1996. The original sponsors of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 include Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC.) Highlights of the bill include: 

Improving program quality, while simultaneously ensuring that federal funds support low-income and at-risk children and families

  • States must set aside 3 percent of funding to expand access and improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers.
  • In addition, the amount states set aside for quality improvement activities must be at least 10 percent within five years of enactment and states must report on what activities they choose to invest in.
  • States must describe how they are prioritizing quality care for children from low-income families in areas of concentrated poverty or unemployment. 

Addressing the nutritional and physical activity needs of children in child care settings

  • Allows quality funds to support the development of guidelines relating to health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and development for young kids.
  • Incorporates the health and wellness needs of children into professional development.

Strengthening coordination and alignment to contribute to a more comprehensive early childhood education and care system

  • Emphasizes the improvement of service coordination & delivery as a purpose of the law.
  • Requires states to consult with their Early Learning Advisory Councils, mandated through Head Start, on major decisions.
  • Requires States to coordinate with existing early education and care programs.

Meeting the needs of children with disabilities who require child care

  • Requires States to explain how they will meet the needs of children with disabilities.
  • Ensures that the CCDBG provisions are coordinated with IDEA programs for infants and toddlers and preschool-aged children with disabilities.

Providing Protections for Children and Families Who Receive Assistance

  • Children who initially qualify for a subsidy get care for at least a year.
  • When parents re-determine their eligibility for the subsidy, States must ensure they will give parents ample opportunity to prove continued eligibility and take into account the needs of families in doing so, including taking into account a parent’s irregular work schedule.

Safeguarding the Health and Safety of Children

  • States must provide pre-service health & safety training to all CCDBG providers.
  • States must develop health & safety standards related to things such as: First Aid & CPR prevention of sudden infant death syndrome; and child abuse prevention. 
  • States must perform at least one annual inspection of licensed CCDBG providers.
  • States must perform at least one pre-licensure inspection of CCDBG providers.
  • States must explain how providers who are license-exempt provide care that does not endanger the health or development of children.
  • Individuals who provide care for children with the support of CCDBG funding must undergo a background check.