In recent years Congress has passed bipartisan legislation to support early learning and care, advancing efforts aimed at improving the quality of, and access to early childhood opportunities. But to realize their potential, Congress must ensure the federal early learning programs are properly and sufficiently funded to accomplish the goals and activities authorized by law and reach more eligible families.

While authorizing legislation, such as the CCDBG Act, the Head Start Act, and ESSA, establish federal programs and their requirements in statute, actual funding levels for programs depend on the annual budget and appropriations process.

Each year, shortly after the State of the Union Address, the President submits a budget request to Congress, which includes the administration’s desired federal revenue and spending levels for each federal program, including federal early learning and child care initiatives. Congress then sets the total level of discretionary funding for the upcoming fiscal year in its concurrent congressional budget resolution. Once Congress establishes this total amount for discretionary funding to be made available for federal programs, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work to divide the allocations amongst the 12 appropriations subcommittees.

Using this information, the 12 subcommittees, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which is responsible for most federal early learning and care programs, produce separate appropriations bills in each chamber. Traditionally, the full Senate and House then begin working through the legislative process to pass the bills prior to the conclusion of the federal fiscal year on September 30.
FFYF advocates for significant federal investment in early learning by working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to find political and policy solutions that take us from where we are to where America needs to be. We are committed to making a continuum of comprehensive, high-quality early learning opportunities accessible to children from birth through age five – particularly those from low-income families. FFYF has a plan to leverage public support, which includes building upon the progress that Congress has championed for early learning during the appropriations process.

FFYF advocates for significant federal investment in early learning by working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to find political and policy solutions that take us from where we are to where America needs to be. We are committed to making a continuum of comprehensive, high-quality early learning opportunities accessible to children from birth through age five – particularly those from low-income families. FFYF has a plan to leverage public support, which includes building upon the progress that Congress has championed for early learning during the appropriations process.


In July 2020, the House of Representatives approved the FY2021 spending bills to fund much of the federal government next fiscal year, including the FY2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill. Included in the legislation is a $100 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, $150 million increase for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and $25 million increase for the Preschool Development Block Grants Birth through Five.


In March 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis with near unanimous, bipartisan support. This $2.2 trillion bill provided a significant infusion of funding into existing federal programs that support the care and education of young children, as well as their families, including $3.5 billion for CCDBG and $750 million for Head Start, in addition to funding for nutrition and public housing programs and for K-12 education and higher education. Further, the CARES Act and subsequent legislation, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, included an array of supports for small businesses, including child care providers. A more detailed analysis of the CARES Act provisions that benefit children, families, and child care providers is available here


In December of 2019, Congress approved bipartisan FY2020 spending bills to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. Included in the legislation is over $1 billion in increased funding for federal early learning and care programs, including a $550 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program and a $550 million increase for Head Start & Early Head Start. These investments build upon historic funding increases to CCDBG in FY2018 ($2.37 billion over FY2017 levels) as part of a bipartisan budget deal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as further funding increases in FY2019.

Click here to view funding levels of other early childhood education and care programs for FY20.