News Releases

Mr. President, I rise in support of the Snowe/Dodd amendment to increase funding for child care by $6 billion. We know that high-quality child care makes a real difference for children and their families. It allows parents to work, and at the same time it gives children a safe and productive place to learn.

Today, the need for child care is growing, but government support is not. In fact, because of the slow economy and state budget problems, many states are cutting back on their support of child care. This is having an especially painful impact on low-income families – the very families that are helped the most by child care. These are also the same families that will need more help because of the work requirements in the underlying bill. That’s why we need to pass this amendment.

The Snowe/Dodd amendment will increase funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant by $6 billion. Without this amendment, about 430,000 children will lose their child care assistance over the next three years. This amendment will make a real difference for families in every state. In my own home state of Washington, this amendment will mean nearly $140 million in increased child care funding for Washington families.

Benefits of High Quality Child Care

Mr. President, over the years, I’ve fought on this floor to increase child care funding, so I don’t need to spend a lot of time reviewing what the research shows us. We know that safe, quality child care helps children start school ready to learn and keeps children safe while their parents work. Studies show that quality makes a real difference. Children in poor-quality child care have been found to lag behind in language and reading skills and to display more aggression. On the other hand, children in high-quality child care have greater math, thinking and attention skills. They also have fewer behavior problems than children in lower-quality care.

Too Expensive for Many Families

The benefits of high quality child care are not in question; the only question is how many families can afford it? Full-day child care easily costs from $4,000 to $10,000 a year. That’s at least as much as college tuition at a public university, and it’s more than many families can afford. For example, if both parents work full-time for minimum wage, they only make $21,400 a year. Child care would be one-quarter to one-half of their income. Clearly, they need help.

Today, nearly 16 million children under age 13, who are living in low-income families, are likely to need child care. But out of those 16 million, only 1 in 7 low-income children receive the federal child care assistance for which they are eligible.

Economy & Welfare Requirements Increase the Need

Even worse, the need for child care is increasing because of our high unemployment rate and because of the increased work requirements in the underlying bill. Many out-of-work parents are looking for jobs, and they need child care to be able to look for a job. If this amendment fails and the underlying bill passes, about 430,000 children will lose their child care assistance by Fiscal Year 2008. Without this amendment, fewer and fewer children will get the child care they need. Because of inflation alone, states will need $5 billion over the next five years just to keep serving the same number of children. And that assumes that TANF funds will be available and that state budgets won’t be cut.

States Need Help

We already know that states are cutting back on child care funding because of their budget shortfalls. In 2000, states spent $3.8 billion in TANF funds for child care programs. By 2002, state spending had dropped to $3.5 billion. Many states have growing numbers of low-income families on waiting lists. Some states are turning low-income families away unless those families receive TANF, are moving out of TANF, or have other special circumstances. Other states have altered eligibility requirements so that only the very poor receive assistance. And some states have raised co-payments. According to the General Accounting Office, 23 states have changed their child care policies since 2001 in ways that limit access for families, shutting the door on opportunities for parents to work.

Washington State Impact

My own state of Washington has lowered the eligibility standard for child care subsidies from 225 percent to 200 percent of poverty. Washington state also increased monthly co-payments for families. In 2000, 54,000 children in Washington received subsidized child care. By 2001, the number had dropped to 51,200. As I mentioned earlier, this amendment will mean nearly $140 million in increased child care funding for Washington families. That help is desperately needed.

Mr. President, today we are considering a welfare reauthorization bill that is supposed to help struggling families become self-sufficient. I do not believe we can have a meaningful conversation about getting parents into jobs unless families have access to safe, quality child care. I urge my colleagues to support the Snowe-Dodd amendment to increase child care funding by $6 billion.