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. To fully realize the potential of these opportunities, Congress must ensure that federal early learning programs are properly and sufficiently funded to accomplish the goals and activities authorized by law and to reach more eligible families.

While authorizing legislation such as CCDBG, the Head Start Act and ESSA establishes 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. This request 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 of discretionary funding, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work to divide the allocations amongst the 12 appropriations subcommittees.

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, use this information to 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 Sept. 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 5. 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 March of 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 and their families, including $3.5 billion for CCDBG and $750 million for Head Start. This came in addition to funding for nutrition and public housing programs and for K-12 education and higher education. A more detailed analysis of how the CARES Act benefited children, families and child care providers is available here

In December of 2020, Congress approved additional pandemic relief as part of a package of bills that also included annual government appropriations and the extension of certain programs, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, through the end of fiscal year 2021. Among other provisions, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act included $10 billion in funding to stabilize the child care industry, as well as funding for Head Start, K-12 and higher education, and direct financial assistance to families.

The most recent relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan, was passed in March of 2021 and provided $14.99 billion in supplemental CCDBG funding and $23.98 billion for states to provide child care stabilization grants to qualified child care providers to help maintain the pre-pandemic supply of child care. A summary of CCDBG funding provided in each of the bills, how funds can be used and relevant deadlines for reporting and spending the dollars is available here

Click here for an overview of FY2021 funding levels for early childhood education and care programs.