Child care is a necessity for low-income and working parents, yet the cost of quality care often places it out of reach for families. Recognizing that quality child care can make a powerful difference in children’s development and families’ well-being, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act provides federal funding to states for child care subsidies for low-income families with children under age 13. Additionally, CCDBG 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.

The CCDBG Act was first enacted in 1990. In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act created the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which consolidates discretionary funds appropriated for CCDBG with entitlement funds under the Social Security Act into a single, unified federal child care funding stream to states. CCDF is administered by the Office of Child Care within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Historically, CCDF was viewed primarily as a workforce support to help low-income families work or attend school. As understanding about the importance of early learning and development has grown, policymakers have invested in child care programs that enable parents to work and also play a crucial role in supporting children’s healthy development, learning and school readiness. A bipartisan reauthorization of the CCDBG Act in November of 2014—the first such legislation in 18 years—codifies that recognition and takes steps to support care that positively impacts children during their formative years while also allowing parents to enter into and remain in the workforce.

Key revisions in 2014 included strengthening health and safety requirements for child care providers, increasing quality and improving transparency so families are equipped to choose care that best meets their child’s and family’s needs. Meeting these new standards will require investments in building both provider and state-level systems capacity to deliver, support and oversee quality programs that support children’s development and learning and to cover the costs of quality programs.

FFYF strongly supports the federal government’s continued partnership with states to support local providers to address the needs of children from low-income families. CCDBG is a critical piece of the federal-state early childhood continuum to ensure children from birth to age 5 are ready for school and success in college, career and life.

Looking ahead, FFYF has a plan to leverage public support into a significant expansion of high-quality early learning from birth through age 5. Increased funding for child care would make a critical difference in ensuring children from low-income families are accessing the high-quality early learning experiences necessary to be ready for the first day of kindergarten.

Following passage of an FY2018 spending bill that included the single largest increase to CCDBG in the program’s history, Congress approved an additional $50 million for FY2019 and $550 million in FY2020 for total discretionary funding of $5.826 billion in FY2020. FFYF will continue to work to ensure lawmakers protect and strengthen these increases in future appropriations measures. These crucial funding increases will allow states to continue implementing important quality and safety improvements passed by Congress as part of the CCDBG Act of 2014.

In the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, the child care sector saw widespread layoffs as a result of catastrophic drops in enrollment and mandatory closures. At the same time, many child care facilities were asked to remain open, operating on only a fraction of their income, in order to provide care for essential workers. Recognizing the tremendous needs in the child care industry, federal pandemic relief has included targeted support for young children, their families and child care providers, including supplemental CCDBG funding.

States have used the supplemental funding in a variety of ways, including continuing to pay providers for children enrolled in their programs, supporting essential workers needing child care and supporting providers to get materials like cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to safely operate or reopen their programs. While this funding provided immediate relief, additional funding will be necessary to ensure the long-term stability of the child care industry and to empower families to return to the workforce as the economy reopens. 

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.

Current Funding Level: CCDBG is funded at $5.911 billion for FY2021, an increase of $85 million over FY2020. 

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