Senate votes to help low-income families pay for childcare, but more action is needed

The Senate voted this week to reauthorize a federal childcare subsidy program, but families still need more

By Katie McDonough
Published November 19, 2014 4:56PM (EST)
   (<a href=''>MAFord</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(MAFord via Shutterstock)

The Senate voted this week to reauthorize a federal childcare subsidy program that hasn't been updated in two decades, proof that the Senate can sometimes do things that are moderately OK things to do.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant program allocates $5.3 billion in funds each year so that states can subsidize and improve childcare for low-income families. Among some of the changes made in the reauthorization bill, the version heading to President Obama's desk allows children to remain in the program for a full year, creating a more reliable system than the one currently in place. Previously, assistance through the voucher program could be taken away from families because of changes in their work schedule or income. The program serves around 1.5 million children each month.

It's a positive step (and feels like something of a miracle given current congressional dysfunction), but won't go nearly far enough to address the problems millions of families face while trying to access childcare, advocates say. While progressive groups that supported the bill applauded the move, it's clear that additional action is needed.

"The enactment of CCDBG is an encouraging sign of bipartisanship, and I hope it marks a renewed commitment from Congress to supporting working families and early childhood education," Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement.

"Under current funding levels, just one in six eligible children has access to care through the federal subsidy program. In the upcoming Congress, both sides should work together to further improve access to affordable, high-quality child care by increasing funding to support families’ access to child care, as well as targeting federal funds to high-quality providers to support early learning and school readiness."

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Childcare Low-income Families Poverty Reproductive Justice