WASHINGTON – In a bipartisan vote today, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Once he is sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, Becerra will lead the federal agency that administers programs related to health, safety, and well-being of the United States, including many of the nation’s core early learning and care programs like Head Start and Early Head Start; the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program; the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program; and the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program, which it co-administers with the Department of Education.
“As we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that our nation’s federal early learning and care programs are administered effectively and efficiently,” said FFYF Executive Director Sarah Rittling. “We are hopeful that Xavier Becerra and the Department of Health and Human Services will prioritize the needs of children from birth through age five and their families. We look forward to working with Secretary Becerra and Congress to build on recent investments in early childhood education and care programs that are essential to ensuring millions of children living in poverty have access to developmental and educational opportunities during their crucial, earliest years.”
During his recent confirmation hearings, Becerra singled out the Head Start program and child care as key priorities in his remarks to lawmakers, “I want to work with you supporting our vulnerable children, those in foster care, strengthening Head Start and expanding access to child care. [W]e must restore faith in our public health institutions; that starts with putting science and the facts first and showing respect for our career workforce”
Some of the federal early learning and care programs under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services include:
- Head Start and Early Head Start
- Head Start is a federally funded program that delivers comprehensive early learning, health, nutrition, and family support services to children ages 3 through 5 living in poverty and their families. Early Head Start is a federally funded program that provides intensive, comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers under age 3, pregnant women, and their families.
- Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
- Provides federal funding to states for child care subsidies for low-income families with children under age 13 and allows for flexibility to pair state and federal funds to improve the overall quality of child care available to families within existing state and local systems.
- Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program
- Provides federal funds to states for voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services. Voluntary home visiting programs, like those made possible by MIECHV, pair families who often have limited support and resources with trained home visitors such as nurses, social workers, and educators.
- Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5)
- Co-administered by the U.S. Department of Education, this $275 million competitive federal grant is designed to improve states’ early childhood systems by building upon existing federal, state, and local early care and learning investments.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Provides grants to states to design and operate programs that accomplish one of the purposes of the program. Specifically, TANF plays a crucial role in offering relief to low-income families through increased access to child care and early education opportunities, which helps parents to enter or return to the workforce.