Put Child Care on the Map, Advocates Say

Wrapping up my post on child care costs, I remarked that we’d need a reordering of priorities in Congress to make affordable, high-quality child care available for poor and near-poor families nationwide.

Turns out that two major advocacy organizations — RESULTS and the National Women’s Law Center — have decided it’s time to put the pressure on.

We’ve had reports, expert testimony, news articles, blog posts, etc. But nothing gets attention like direct proofs of constituent interest.

So the organizations are asking all of us — well, all except us disenfranchised District of Columbia residents — to “put child care on the map.”

Specifically, they ask that everyone concerned about child care do one or more things while members of Congress are back in their home districts, as they will be for good parts of this summer and fall.

Then we’re to let the organizations know what we did so that they can put it on a Google map they’ve created.

Lots of options for putting child care on Congress members’ radar screens — many with helps like templates and meeting tips.

Also, at this early point, lots of vacant places on the map. But already fewer than when I first checked it.

The immediate occasion for this innovative campaign is the upcoming budget for the Child Care and Development Fund — the single largest source of federal support for subsidized child care.

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget would provide $825 million more for the Fund.

Most would go to the mandatory or entitlement part, which receives a set level of funding based on what Congress last authorized.

The increase would thus require Congress to change the authorizing language — presumably as part of a broader package that’s now overdue.

The remainder of the increase would go to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which receives whatever Congress decides in any given year.

Most, if not all of the $325 million for the block grant would give states extra money to improve child care quality. The additional $500 million for the mandatory part would help fund subsidized child care, but only in states willing to match the extra they could receive.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that the increase would support 70,000 children who otherwise wouldn’t be served. This does not mean that more children than ever would receive subsidized child care, however.

The estimated number of children who would be served is about 200,000 less than in 2010, when states still had Recovery Act funds for child care.

Well, the President proposes and Congress disposes. Hence the need to put child care on the map.

Last year, the House Republican majority voted to cut the Child Care and Development Block Grant by $39 million. They ultimately agreed to a package that increased its funding — a notable turnaround, especially because Senate appropriators had earlier decided on level funding.

This is surely proof that actions like those RESULTS and NWLC urge us to take can make a difference, even in these … how shall I put it? … unfriendly times.

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