The following statement can be attributed to Karen Schneider, Vice President of Communications and Helen Blank, Director of Leadership and Public Policy from the National Women's Law Center::
WASHINGTON - In the next few weeks—before the end of the current lame duck session—Congress will make critical funding decisions as it completes work on appropriations for FY 2011. Far from the Capitol, the future of nearly 300,000 low-income children and their families who depend on child care and Head Start is in jeopardy. Research has repeatedly shown that investments made in a child’s early years pay dividends for children, their families and their communities.
Unlike K-12 education, child care and other early childhood programs are funded largely by the federal government. With the current political focus on federal deficit reduction, children in poverty and their families are particularly vulnerable.
Your newspaper is an influential voice in your community. We urge you to help 300,000 children and their families by urging Congress to allocate additional funding for child care and Head Start. If Congress fails to appropriate sufficient funds, these vulnerable children and their families will lose crucial lifelines.
Here is some background on these important programs:
Despite steep cuts in state budgets in the last year, most states were able to maintain the child care investments that help low-income families pay for child care. This was possible because of federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provided $2 billion in additional funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant for FY 2009 and FY 2010. But many states are now exhausting these funds while also facing significant budget shortfalls. Without new federal funding, most states will be forced to scale back child care assistance.
Several states are already cutting back and forcing families with limited incomes to depend on less reliable, lower-quality care. In some cases, parents are no longer able to work because they cannot afford child care on their own.
Here’s a sobering snapshot of the current child care landscape:
· Arizona has cut the number of children receiving child care assistance from 48,000 to 30,000 since February 2009.
· Arkansas used ARRA funds to provide child care assistance to more than 12,000 additional children and reduce its waiting list for assistance in 2009. But its waiting list grew from 2,727 children in February 2010 to approximately 15,000 in August 2010.
· California’s waiting list for child care assistance continues to have approximately 200,000 children.
· Denver has stopped taking applications for child care assistance for 18 months.
· Florida’s waiting list for child care assistance was close to 67,000 children in early 2010.
· New Hampshire’s waiting list for child care assistance grew from 1,845 children in April 19, 2010, to 2,359 children in July 15, 2010, with approximately twelve children being added to the list every day. Since October, no new families have been able to obtain help in paying for child care unless they are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or need protective or preventive services.
· Washington lowered its income eligibility limit for child care assistance from 200 percent of poverty ($36,620 a year for a family of three) to 175 percent of poverty ($32,043 a year for a family of three) on October 1, 2010. About 2,500 families will no longer be eligible.
Head Start and Early Head Start are core building blocks in our nation’s early childhood educational system. Head Start has offered comprehensive services to more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children and their families since 1965. ARRA provided $2.1 billion in additional funds—to be spent over two years—for Head Start and Early Head Start, allowing communities across the country to open more than 7,000 new classrooms. But if current ARRA funding levels drop off, these classrooms will shut down and deprive the poorest children of vital early educational experiences that prepare them to succeed in school. Even if no cuts are made, many poor children remain outside the reach of these programs; less than half of eligible three- and four-year-olds have the opportunity to participate in Head Start. And just 4 percent of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in Early Head Start.
The fate of 300,000 children receiving help from child care and Head Start hangs in the balance.
We urge you to call on Congress to appropriate the $2 billion necessary to ensure that 300,000 children will not lose access to child care and Head Start, whether that is included in a continuing resolution to keep the government operating or in an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2011.
The National Women’s Law Center recently released a state-by-state report on the availability of child care help for low-income families, which provides detailed information about child care assistance in your state; you can read the report at http://www.nwlc.org/resource/state-child-care-assistance-policies-2010-new-federal-funds-help-states-weather-storm.