U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted today to approve bipartisan legislation she co-sponsored to help low-income working families access child care so that parents can work, train for work, or attend school. The legislation passed the Senate today by a vote of 97 to 1.
The bill renews and updates the Child Care and Development Block Grant program (CCDBG), which allows states to better develop their own child care programs and permits low-income families to use vouchers in order to afford child care and after-school programs. To qualify for assistance, parents must demonstrate they are working or enrolled in school, yet fall below certain income thresholds. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill does not increase direct spending.
"Access to quality child care makes a real difference for low-income parents who want to work, and I was pleased to help pass this legislation," said Senator Ayotte, who recently discussed child care and youth development initiatives with representatives from the Concord Family YMCA. "This child care program is designed to help those who are working or actively gaining the skills they need to get a job. By helping to ensure that those who want to work can pursue opportunities to do so, these families can become financially independent. The House should take up this bill and work to pass it right away."
The legislation Ayotte co-sponsored would reauthorize the CCDBG program through fiscal year 2019. The CCDBG was first signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 to assist working families with the cost of child care. The program, which serves more than 1.6 million children every month, is administered to states in formula block grants. States use the funding to help low-income families gain access to quality, affordable child care and after-school programs while parents work, train for work, or attend school. Assistance is transferred to qualifying recipients through vouchers.
Eligibility requirements include:
* Family income cannot exceed 85% of the state median (states have flexibility to adopt income eligibility limits below this federal maximum),
* Children must be less than 13 years old,
* Children must live with parents who are working, enrolled in school/training, or be in need of protective services.
The legislation also includes provisions to boost safety for children. The bill requires criminal background checks for child care providers when they are hired and every five years thereafter; those who have committed crimes against children or other violent crimes would be disqualified from working with children.