Storm could delay childcare reauthorization

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Monday’s snowstorm could delay Senate work on the reauthorization of the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program.

A procedural vote on the bipartisan bill was expected Wednesday, after the Senate completed work on several executive and judicial nominees. But because of the snowstorm, votes on the nominations won’t start until Wednesday afternoon. If Republicans force Democrats to use all of the debate time on each nominee that would take the Senate well into Friday before it could begin work on the childcare bill.

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"Because of the inclement weather we have had to change things around significantly," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday. "We’re going to do our utmost to get everything done Wednesday and Thursday … [but] if not, we may have to be here Friday."

S. 1086 provides block grants to states to help low-income working parents obtain childcare for more than 1.5 million children under age 13. The bill authorizes funds through 2019.

In the omnibus appropriations bill passed earlier this year, the CCDBG program was funded at $2.36 billion — an increase of $154 million from 2013 spending levels.  This funding increase means 22,000 additional children will receive childcare assistance. The average monthly subsidy for one child is around $400.

The bill also aims to improve the CCDBG program, which hasn’t been reauthorized since 1996. If passed into law, state would now have to conduct background checks on all childcare providers receiving the grants and perform at least one annual inspection of licensed CCDBG providers. It also allows states to use some of the federal funds to promote nutritional and physical education for children in the CCDBG program.

Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote the legislation, which is expected to have broad bipartisan support, perhaps even without a floor amendment process.

It's unclear if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will allow a House vote on the measure.

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