Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson from the White House Blog
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson from the White House Blog

Last week, federal child care law got an important overhaul: Congress passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG). And President Obama signed it into law.

In a rare show of political unity, both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill. According to the news website, “Congress reauthorized the $5.3 billion per year program on Monday with strong bipartisan support for a deal crafted by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.”

Due for reauthorization since 2002, the new law reflects “input from parents, childcare providers, and early learning and development experts,” this Congressional summary explains.

The law emphasizes “training, professional development, and improvements to health and safety requirements,” the summary says. In addition, the law “focuses on giving families more stability in the CCDBG program by ensuring that children who initially qualify for a subsidy get care for at least a year.”

“However,” the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) warns, “the reauthorization does not meaningfully increase funding for CCDBG above FY 2014 levels ($2.36 billion).” NWLC’s analysis includes a chart comparing the old CCDBG law to the new one. Among the new provisions that the chart points to are a “national toll-free hotline and website to disseminate consumer education information, help parents access quality child care in their communities (with a range of price options), and allow reports (anonymous if desired) of suspected child abuse/health and safety violations at CCDBG providers.”

New America’s EdCentral blog explains, “CCDBG will also ensure kids are much safer. Currently, most states allow some smaller providers to operate without a license–which means they also operate without the types of regular health and safety inspections other child care providers are subject to. Now, though, even license-exempt providers will have to pass annual fire, health, and safety inspections.”

Political and Nonprofit Leaders’ Reaction to CCDBG

“Well, as many of you know, one of my top priorities is making sure that we’ve got affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education for our young people across the country,” Obama said at the bill signing. “Today, I am pleased to sign a bill into law which is going to bring us closer to that goal — that’s the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. I want to thank bipartisan members of Congress who are here today.”

Some of those Congressional members released their own statements.

“Every month, an average of 39,000 Tennessee children get childcare through this program while their parents earn an education or build a career,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said in a joint statement. “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.”

Alexander is the ranking republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“I introduced this legislation together with Senator Burr to ensure that child care across America is available, affordable, reliable, safe and exceptional,” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said in the joint statement.

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said, “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.”

And as Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said of CCDBG being reauthroized, “This is a great day for children and families across the U.S. – following a year of unprecedented action and momentum on the issue of early childhood education.”

We’re excited to see that powerful momentum continue as the country moves toward a new year.