Dems push $25B boost for childcare programs

Dems push $25B boost for childcare programs
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With the support of the Obama administration, Democratic lawmakers on Thursday unveiled legislation to expand childcare access to low-income families.

With Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Lois FrankelLois FrankelFormer CIA director: Don’t call Russian election hacking ‘act of war’ Palm Beach official proposes Mar-a-Lago tax to pay for Trump visits Members jam with Wynonna Judd, Keith Urban at Grammys on the Hill MORE (D-Fla.), Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (D-Pa.) announced plans to introduce the Child Care Access to Resources for Early-learning (CARE) Act. The bill aims to ensure families with infants and toddlers living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level have access to quality childcare by 2021.

The legislation calls for $25 billion in mandatory funding to expand the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program. States that apply and receive funding would be required to spend 80 percent of the money on programs that improve access to quality care for children under the age of 4, and 12 percent on improving the care that’s being given by providing workers opportunities for higher levels of training and education.  

“In half of all states, a year of child care is more than a year of college tuition and in every state child care costs are higher than rent and mortgage payments for working parents,” Crowley said. “That’s a huge pill to swallow.”

For a family of three living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, Casey said yearly household income is around $40,000. For a family of four, it’s about $48,000, but across the country childcare can cost over $10,000. In Washington, D.C., alone families often pay $18,000 or more for one child.

Despite these high costs, lawmakers said wages remain low for childcare providers. The median wage for someone working with infants and toddlers is $9.30 an hour, or $19,344 per year.

Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the federal subsidy for childcare now is around $5,500 for an infant and toddler.

“The bill will give us enough money to raise the subsidy rates of those in the system already closer to $10,000 and new children coming in the system would come in at the higher rate, so that allows for workers to be paid more, for them to purchase the equipment they need, get the education they need and so forth,” she said.

Casey, who is planning to introduce the bill in the Senate next week, said he is working on gaining Republicans co-sponsors.

“I’ve been at this awhile on child care and Pre-K,” he said. “It’s very difficult. I’ll leave it at that because I’m a very optimistic person.”