S. 261. A bill to amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to exclude child care from the determination of the 5-year limit on assistance under the temporary assistance to needy families program, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.
S. 262. A bill to amend the temporary assistance to needy families program under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to improve the provision of education and job training under that program, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.
S. 263. A bill to amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to require a comprehensive strategic plan for the State temporary assistance to needy families program and to give States the flexibility to implement innovative welfare programs that have been effective in other States; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today my colleague Senator Bingaman and I are reintroducing our bill to increase mandatory funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, CCDBG. Our legislation, the Children First
Act would increase the mandatory funding stream of CCDBG by $11.2 billion over the next five years.
Congress understands that working families need help paying for child care. Indeed, funding for CCDBG has grown significantly over the past several years. Yet despite these increases, funding still only reaches one in seven eligible children nationwide, leaving approximately 12.9 million eligible children without any assistance. Roughly 500,000 children are on waiting lists for help around the country and 21,000 children are on the waiting list for child care assistance in Massachusetts.
The need for child care assistance in Massachusetts is tremendous. Currently, 60 percent of Massachusetts children under age six have mothers in the workforce, and 16.4 percent of Massachusetts children under age five live in poverty. Child care costs at an urban center for a four-year-old averages $8,121 per year and the costs for an infant averages $12,978. That's 223 percent more than the cost of public college tuition in Massachusetts! It's just shocking to me, Mr. President, that we expect families to bear the burden of such costly child care services, they simply cannot afford to do it and are forced either not to work or to leave their children in substandard, and many times even dangerous care. CCDBG is a critically important program to helping poor families afford child care, but we haven't done nearly enough to fill the existing child care gap. Even combining CCDBG and state child care funding in Massachusetts only reaches 13 percent of eligible children.
Senator Bingaman and I led the effort to increase child care funding during the welfare reform debate last year and we will do so again this year. But today there is an even more dire need for child care funding than there was one year ago. State governments face a fiscal crisis of historical proportions and as a result have been forced to make severe cuts in social services. In fact child care subsidies for working parents have been scaled back in a number of states. Unfortunately it's likely that the federal government may compound those state cuts. The FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed last week by the Senate would cut CCDBG discretionary funds by approximately $60.9 million below FY 2002 levels. As a result, 38,000 fewer children would have access to child care assistance at a time when only one in seven eligible children receive services.
Increased availability and the quality of child care helps achieve two important goals: First, it enables low-income parents on welfare and parents trying to stay off welfare to work and support their families. And second, it provides the early learning experiences that our children need to do well in school. Studies show that when child care is available, and when families get help paying for care, they are more likely to work. Children in high quality early care score higher on reading and math tests, are more likely to complete high school and go onto college, and are less likely to repeat a grade or get charged in juvenile court.
Increased child care funding is an investment that we cannot afford NOT to make. I look forward to teaming up with Senator Bingaman in the Finance Committee during welfare reauthorization to increase CCDBG funding. I urge all of my colleagues to join us in the fight to provide all working families with safe, high-quality child care.