Child Care

This New Report Exposes The Dire State Of Child Care Funding In The U.S.

The federal government’s main child care subsidy isn’t reaching nearly as many kids as it needs to.

Originally Published: 
Daycare children are seen sitting on the floor as they pay with wooden blocks together.  The toddler...
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Despite a full-court press from the Biden Administration, the U.S. remains one of the few developed countries without fully subsidized child care. President Biden, attempting to make good on a campaign promise, has pushed for expanded child care to offset exorbitant costs since early in his presidency, and for good reason. Child care is expensive, hard to find, and running at razor-thin profit margins; child care workers struggle to make ends meet. But, according to a new report by the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), an early childhood advocacy group, federal funds set aside expressly for childcare are being under-utilized, leaving the most vulnerable families without care or options.

In its report, FFYF examined data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia that provides insight into where and how the federal government’s main child care subsidy, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), is actually utilized. The CCDBG, enacted in 1990, is a federally funded grant program that provides states with funds to provide child care assistance to low-income families (defined as families with income lower than 85% of that state’s median income) with children younger than 13.

“Parents need child care to go to work today. That’s never going to change: they’ll need it when they wake up tomorrow, and the day after that. CCDBG is necessary in helping parents find and afford that care, but it’s only reaching a small fraction of the families who qualify for the program due to limited funding,” FFYF Executive Director Sarah Rittling explained in a statement.

Each state has the ability to employ funds from the grant however they see fit, though the federal government sets eligibility requirements. Some states use a voucher system, while others directly pay for child care slots for those who qualify.

According to the FFYF report, however, although 33% of children under the age of six are eligible, CCBDBG funds only reach around 15%; in 22 states, those funds reach only 10%.

Families that do benefit from the program enjoy significantly lower child care rates, as low as $217 per month on average, compared to the national average of $226 per week. That is a huge difference. And the families that don’t benefit from the program — but qualify for it — are stuck making up the gap.

A few key findings from the report include:

  • In Kansas, 92% of eligible children under age six are not served by the CCDBG due to insufficient funding.
  • In Rhode Island, 90% of eligible children under age six are not served by the CCDBG due to insufficient funding.
  • In California, 92% of eligible children under age six are not served by the CCDBG due to insufficient funding.
  • In Georgia, 93% of eligible children under age six are not served by the CCDBG due to insufficient funding.

These lapses aren’t specific to any particular geographical area and are found throughout the country. FFYF found that the program is woefully underfunded and lacks the capital to provide subsidies to all the families who are eligible.

When funds for the CCDBG were temporarily increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and through Biden’s American Rescue Plan, states used the windfall to increase pay rates for care providers, decrease waitlists, improve safety and health standards, and modify hours to provide care to those who work outside of the traditional nine-to-five work day.

“Our analysis shows that while the program is critical to the families it reaches, with additional investments it could benefit hundreds of thousands of additional families, young children, and in turn, local economies,” said Rittling. “Congress has long identified CCDBG as a program worthy of bipartisan support and increases. This year should be no different.”

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