The Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package showed a bipartisan commitment from members of Congress to increasing access to high-quality child care for more working parents around the country. In addition to funding levels, there are several exciting policy provisions in the legislation.
On December 17, 2019, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the fiscal year 2020 federal spending bills was announced. Included in this deal is an increase of over $1 billion for federal early care and education programs, including $550 million for both the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Head Start program. In particular, the increased investment in CCDBG builds on historic bipartisan increases in FY2018 and FY2019 and will continue to help American families achieve stable employment and improve child and family well-being. Beyond these exciting top-line numbers, there are several provisions that will help address quality and availability of child care for families around the country.
- Child Care and Development Block Grant. As mentioned, the $550 million in increased funding for CCDBG builds on years of bipartisan support for the program, including the bipartisan reauthorization of 2014. The historic increase in funding for CCDBG in FY2018 and FY2019 is helping more working parents access child care and improving the quality of care around the country. However, child care costs continue to be a major challenge for millions of working families and this additional child care funding will make a positive difference. The increases will also help states continue implementing the 2014 law, support quality improvements throughout the child care system, and further new federal research and technical assistance projects.
- Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. The agreement continues to strongly support EHS Expansion and the EHS-CCP program, and accordingly, the agreement includes at least $905 million, an increase of $100 million, for such purposes. Furthermore, the agreement simplifies administration of the programs, and encourages transparency by directing the Administration for Children and Families to report to congress on the number of funded slots for Head Start, EHS, and EHS-CCP.
Since fiscal year 2014, these funds have supported both the expansion of traditional EHS and the establishment of partnerships between EHS providers and local child care programs. The EHS-CCP program demonstrates that when the federal government gives adequate resources, flexibility, and clear accountability standards, local communities will step up to the challenge. By including strong language directing the Department of Health and Human Services to continue prioritizing the needs of infants and toddlers and their families through these programs, congress clearly shows intent to build upon the previous successes of these initiatives. Read more about EHS-CCP.
- Preschool Development Grants. The bipartisan bill includes an increase of $25 million for Preschool Development Grants, for a total of $275 million, and expects these additional funds to be managed in conjunction with funds appropriated in fiscal year 2019 that will be awarded in December 2019. These awards are the second year of funding available under this program, as authorized under the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. In 2018, 46 states and jurisdictions were awarded an initial grant to conduct a needs assessment and develop a strategic plan for their state early childhood system. This second round of grants will help a subset of these states implement such plans, and the $25 million increase means that more states will be able to move forward with improving their state systems.
- Head Start. Congressional leaders increased funding to the Head Start program by $550 million, building on the bipartisan increases provided in FY2018 and FY2019. This funding includes $25 million for the Designation Renewal System, $4 million for re-establishing the Tribal Colleges and Universities Partnership Program, and $250 million for quality improvement funding, including prioritizing trauma-informed care practices.
- Native American Programs. The FY2020 CCDBG appropriations language increases the amount to be set-aside for Tribal grantees, ensuring that at least 5% of funds will support children and families in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Further, congress encourages ACF to convene a working group of federal early childhood program administrators, tribal early childhood stakeholders, and tribal leaders to examine coordination issues that may be impacting early childhood initiatives in tribal communities. Federal funding for tribal early care and education is spread over several programs with requirements and systems that may not align. A working group focused on these issues with help ensure that recent significant increases in funding are implemented efficiently and better serve children and families.
- Child Care Access Means Parents in School. The FY2020 agreement adds $3 million to the CCAMPIS program, the only federal funding focused entirely at meeting the child care needs of student parents. Bipartisan leaders in congress have significantly increased funding for this program since 2017: in FY2020, funding for CCAMPIS is $53 million, which is more than 4 times greater than the $12 million appropriated in 2017. Read more about the CCAMPIS program.
- Apprenticeships. The bipartisan agreement provides funding for apprenticeship grant programs, and notes it should be prioritized to support state, regional, and local apprenticeship efforts, as well as efforts by intermediaries to expand registered apprenticeships into new industries and for underserved or underrepresented populations. Further, the agreement stipulates that nearly $1.3 million will be used for grants authorized by the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Act, which, among other goals, encourages employment of women in occupations that employ apprentices. The agreement also directs the VA to promote awareness and increased utilization of apprenticeships for veterans. Each of these programs could—and should—be used to establish apprenticeships as part of a career pathway in the early childhood workforce for both the current and emerging workforce. Read more about apprenticeships for the early childhood workforce.
- Protecting Children from Lead. In November, the EPA proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule. Congress, in the budget agreement, affirms its strong support for policies to enhance safety and quality of water in child care facilities and acknowledges the proposed revisions contain important proposals regarding lead and copper monitoring in schools and child care facilities. Congress urges proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule to be finalized as expeditiously as possible. Read more about the importance of early learning facilities in child care and early education.
Together, these increased funding levels and the dedication to establishing partnerships, improving quality, and increasing access to services, will help millions of parents around the country. This deal signals that, despite a hyperpartisan environment, there is a continued and evolving bipartisan interest throughout Congress in supporting the wellbeing of children and families around the country.