by Helen Blank, Director, Leadership and Public Policy,
National Women's Law Center
This has been an exciting summer for working women and their families in Washington. On Tuesday, Senator Harkin stepped up and included increases of $1 billion for child care, $990.3 million for Head Start as well as an additional $300 million for a new Early Learning Challenge Fund in the Senate bill that funds key early childhood programs, along with other human services, health, education, and labor programs each year. Representative David Obey also stepped up in mid-July when he included increases of $700 million for child care and $866 million for Head Start in the House version of this bill.
Today, Senator Kerry along with Senator Lincoln and Representative Crowley introduced The Children First Act, which would increase child care funding through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) by $800 million a year over five years, with an adjustment for inflation. The increased funding would allow approximately 117,500 more children to have access to safe and affordable child care.
In addition, the Act would ensure that the minimum child care health and safety standards required for providers receiving Child Care and Development Block Grant funding also apply to providers receiving funding through TANF.
Finally, the Act would ensure that states could not withhold or reduce cash assistance to a single parent with children under age 13 who does not meet TANF work requirements because of the unavailability of appropriate, affordable child care arrangements. Currently, this provision only applies to parents with children under six, despite the importance of safe care for school-age children.
In short, the Children First Act is an important piece of legislation for children and families. Please ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor the Children First Act of 2010!
Given that high-quality child care is a basic that allows families to work and children to gain the skills they need to be ready to succeed in school, our hats are off to Senators Harkin and Kerry and Representatives Obey and Crowley today.