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Follow the Child Care Money

by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst, 
National Women's Law Center

A new report from NWLC highlights the ways in which states are using $2 billion in additional child care funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make a difference for children and families. 

NWLC’s report, Supporting State Child Care Efforts with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds, offers numerous examples of how these funds are enabling many states to maintain and expand families’ access to child care assistance as well as to invest in initiatives to improve the quality of care. In these tough economic times, the additional funding for child care has also helped save and create jobs—for the parents who have been able to work because they have reliable child care, for the child care providers who have been able to maintain enrollment in their programs, and for the trainers, specialists, and other individuals employed to help improve the availability and quality of child care.

States are using ARRA child care funds to prevent families receiving child care assistance from losing it and provide assistance for families who would not otherwise have received it. For example, Alabama prevented 3,000 children from losing child care assistance, and Arizona prevented 9,230 children from losing child care assistance. Indiana is providing child care assistance to 3,500 children who had been on the state’s waiting list. Iowa is offering child care scholarships for families with incomes between 145 percent of poverty (the existing program’s eligibility cutoff) and 185 percent of poverty to help them purchase high-quality infant/toddler care. Several states are also expanding child care assistance for parents who are looking for work, increasing provider reimbursement rates, lowering parent copayments, and/or improving technology for administering child care assistance. 

States are using their ARRA child care quality funds for numerous initiatives to support enhanced early learning opportunities for children, by establishing or expanding quality rating and improvement systems, increasing professional development opportunities for child care providers, providing grants to providers to buy educational materials and equipment, supporting linkages with health care and other services, and targeting specific efforts to improve infant and toddler care.

For example, Oregon is supporting the first phase of a new public-private partnership called Education and Quality Investment Partnership (EQUIP), which provides education awards of $100 to $500 to providers who document educational achievements. Arkansas is funding infant/toddler health specialists in six resource and referral agencies; during the first six months of ARRA funding, these specialists helped with 637 new infant/toddler slots in child care programs. Pennsylvania is implementing Keystone Babies, a pilot program to support infants and toddlers in high-quality child care programs and offer supportive resources to their families.

ARRA funds helped several states to turn back proposals to cut their child care programs. Yet, even with the ARRA funds, at least twelve states are making cuts to their child care assistance programs or child care quality initiatives. Further federal and state investments in child care and early education are essential to sustaining and building on the progress states have made with ARRA funds to maintain and expand access to affordable, high-quality child care.

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