Early yesterday, Congress posted the fiscal year 2016 (FY16) Omnibus spending bill and a Tax Extender bill that both significantly invest in early childhood. 76% of voters across all parties support increasing federal investment to help states provide more access to high-quality early childhood programs for low- and moderate-income families. While voting preferences diverge on many issues facing our present day, investing in early childhood continues to be an issue that everyone can agree upon. Both the Omnibus and Tax Extender Bills are our latest examples of bipartisanship on behalf of children. A vote on both bills are expected by the end of the week.
Funding for the major federal programs that support critical early learning opportunities for young children from low-income families, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Early Head Start and Head Start, have been significantly increased from last fiscal year. Funding for CCDBG has been increased by $326 million from FY15 and Head Start by $570 million from FY15. More Head Start grantees will now have the funding capacity to provide full-day, full-year services. From the accompanying statement to the Omnibus bill: “…research shows that expanded services are associated with better cognitive outcomes…”, and with the increase noted in the bill, delivering services that incorporate what is known to be an essential element to high quality will become a reality. Though not all Head Start grantees will be able to adopt a full-school-day and full-school-year services, those which volunteer and can do so without significant disruption to current programs and services will be able to do so. Within the increased investment in Head Start are federal dollars specifically allocated for Early Head Start, demonstrating federal commitment to supporting early learning from the start.
Preschool Development Grants, received yet another year of funding at $250 million, and were authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act last week. With this funding, States can apply for competitive awards that fund capacity-building within that state to develop, enhance or expand high-quality preschool programs, which includes family engagement and comprehensive services for children from families at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line.
Along with the Omnibus came an important update regarding tax credits, which we at FFYF endorsed at the start of this year as a critical measure to support low-income families which young children. Under the Tax Extender bill, the child tax credit was made permanent, allowing eligible low-income families to access a $1,000 credit. Also made permanent under the proposed Tax Extender bill is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax benefit for low and moderate income workers, which increases for families with three or more children.