High-quality child care and early learning programs play a crucial role in supporting children’s healthy development, learning, and school readiness, while also supporting parents’ ability to work, train, or pursue an education. Still, too many families struggle to find and afford high-quality care that meets their needs, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges, revealing profound flaws in a system that provides foundational support to the American economy.
In recent years Congress has taken an unprecedented interest in finding bipartisan solutions to these issues, and in the last year, early learning and care has been included in every major COVID-19 relief package. These relief dollars have been essential to sustaining the child care sector, and with some equilibrium restored, lawmakers are now returning to efforts to address these underlying issues and to develop a system that works better for families and providers alike.
In April, Congress and the Biden Administration introduced four proposals that would continue to repair and restore the country’s early learning and care system. Two additional bills were introduced at the end of May. These proposals build on existing federal programs and tax provisions, as well as offering new solutions, and include related policies that impact children and families, like nutrition and paid leave. The comparison below focuses on efforts to expand access to high-quality, affordable early learning and care.