The Senate on Thursday passed a bill co-authored by Senator Lamar Alexander to continue a successful program that provides child care vouchers to low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee. The Senate passed the bill 97 to 1.
“This week in Washington, I shared the success story of a Memphis mother who was able to earn a business degree at LeMoyne-Owen College because the state gave her a voucher to pay for the care of her infant child. Today, that mother is an assistant manager at a Memphis-area Walmart, and she’s paying the full cost of a second child’s care at the same center,” Senator Alexander said.
“Washington ideas are often big and burdensome with lots of rules, but this child care program has survived for more than two decades with a simple idea: Give states grants so they can help low-income parents pay for the child care that best suits their families. This year it helped the parents of about 1.5 million children receive child care so they could go to work or get an education and move up the economic ladder and reach the American dream.”
Senator Alexander said, “I am pleased the Senate passed it today after a good debate, during which senators had the opportunity to offer amendments and get votes on those amendments, and I hope we can achieve more good results like this.”
The Child Care and Development Block Grant program 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.
Importantly, 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 Sen. 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.