Senator Lamar Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate education and health committee, on Wednesday announced the Senate has begun debate on a bill he co-authored to continue a successful program that provides child care vouchers to low-income children.
“Each year, the Child Care and Development Block Grant program helps more than 1.5 million low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee, have the kind of early learning and care that can help put them on the same starting line as other children,” Senator Alexander said. “The program works because it supports parents going to work or getting an education, and gives them the freedom to choose the child care that is right for their family.”
The Child Care and Development Block Grant provides funding to states to subsidize child care for low-income families so that parents can work or participate in education and training activities. The reauthorization bill incorporates feedback and suggestions provided to the Committee since 2012. It continues to provide freedom to states in administering the funds but makes improvements to ensure quality in the child care provided.
The program continues to require parents to be working or attending school to receive the child care benefits, and allows them to choose the best child care provider for their family.
In 2012, this program allowed 39,000 Tennessee children to be cared for at about 6,300 providers in the state. The vast majority—more than 90 percent—of these children received care at a licensed provider, which means the facility is inspected at least four times per year, including for health and safety, and is subject to unannounced inspections.
Senator Alexander introduced the bill with committee chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-Ia.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the former chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Children and Families.
The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the Committee in September 2013, represents the 17th bipartisan HELP Committee bill in the 113th Congress to be considered by the full Senate. Ten of those bills have already been signed into law.