WASHINGTON, DC – A measure to overhaul a federal child care grant program and help ensure high-quality child care for more children in Rhode Island was signed into law today, eighteen years after the program was last reauthorized.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) worked to include key provisions of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014, which provides funds to states to help low-income families afford child care while a parent works or is in an educational or job training program.  This new legislation reauthorizes CCDBG for the first time in eighteen years, and makes national improvements to child care quality and enhances safety measures like facility inspections and background checks to give working parents the confidence of knowing that their children are receiving the proper care.

“Ensuring working moms and dads have access to high-quality, affordable child care is essential to our economy.  For many families, child care is their single biggest household expense.  Making child care more accessible and affordable for working parents and ensuring safe, enriching learning environments for kids is a smart investment that builds a strong foundation for future academic success,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped increase funding for CCBDG this year by $154 million nationwide.

The bipartisan law backed by Reed and other lawmakers authorizes approximately $15 billion over six years in CCDBG funds for states, with annual funding starting at $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2015 and gradually increasing each year, up to $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2020. 

For fiscal year 2014, Rhode Island received a total of $17 million in federal child care subsidies from the Child Care and Development Fund to help an average of 5,600 children per month.  The state of Rhode Island administers the program and provides subsidies to families below 180 percent of the federal poverty level, or 46 percent of the state median income, while families are expected to contribute to the cost of care on a sliding scale.  Eligible families select the child care provider of their choice.  Currently, CCDBG serves more than 1.5 million children every month nationwide.

CCDBG incorporates provisions from Reed’s previously introduced Child Care Quality Incentive Act.  Specifically, the legislation requires states to pursue a market-based and quality-based process for setting payment rates and set aside more money to improve the care children receive.  It also mandates stronger safety requirements for child care providers, including better background checks, annual inspections, and health and safety standards, such as first aid and CPR training for staff.

“This is about ensuring more kids have a safe, healthy environment to learn and grow and that parents can focus on work knowing their kids will be well cared for,” said Reed.  “If we can provide parents with flexible and affordable child care options that meet their needs, we can build a stronger workforce in Rhode Island and a stronger future for our children.  I am pleased we were able to reach a principled, bipartisan agreement to help families find child care that meets their needs and will raise the standard of care at all child care facilities.”

A recent national report on child care centers by the non-profit advocacy group Child Care Aware of America ranked Rhode Island the 13th least affordable state for infant child care services and 9th least affordable state for child care for the average 4 year old, relative to family income.  According to the survey, the average price of infant care in Rhode Island tops $13,000 a year.  It can eat up nearly 13 percent of an average couple’s income and about 47 percent of a single parent’s income.  And Rhode Island KIDS COUNT notes that the average annual cost of child care for two children (an infant and a preschooler) in Rhode Island is more than twice the state’s median annual rent.

President Obama signed the bill into law this morning following a conference with educators at the White House.