PROVIDENCE, RI – Thanks to a new federal law, Rhode Island is slated to receive $58.4 million in 2024 to help families with young children find quality child care they can afford and help child care providers retain qualified, experienced staff.  This includes an estimated $19.5 million for Rhode Island through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $38.9 million for the state through federal Head Start funding.

In an effort to help lower the cost of child care for working families and better support Rhode Island’s child care workforce, U.S. Senator Jack Reed worked with his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to successfully deliver a $1 billion increase to critical child care and early learning programs, including an increase for CCDBG and Head Start, in the latest appropriations law, which President Biden signed last month. 

Overall, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 (P.L. 118-42) includes a total of $21 billion for child care and early learning nationwide.  This includes $8.75 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant, the nation’s primary child care program for low-income families, and represents a $725 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023.  The appropriations law also directs $12.27 billion for Head Start, a $275 million increase over FY23.  Head Start is a federally funded early learning and education program for infants through the age of 5.

This level of federal funding, in an otherwise tight budget environment, is a major victory for working families that will help ensure more working parents can afford high-quality child care and child care providers and educators can raise wages and standards to help retain staff and attract workers.

Today, Senator Reed joined Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association (WHSCDA), and the Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center to discuss the importance of affordable, quality child care and what the new law means for Rhode Island and communities across the state.

“Child care is one of the biggest expenses for families and taking care of our kids is among the most important thing we as a society can do.  Investing in America’s child care system and strengthening its capacity is critical for working families and America’s future.  We must ensure families can access quality, affordable, and reliable child care that best meets their needs.  This federal funding will increase access to high-quality child care while lowering the cost burden on families and offering them peace of mind that their children are well cared for while they are at work,” said Senator Reed.  “It also provides essential support for Head Start Programs, ensuring that our premier early education program has the funding needed to meet rising costs.  When kids have access to a healthy, enriching learning environment, it sets them up for a strong start in life and frees parents up to pursue economic opportunities.  That in turn strengthens our workforce and the economy.  We also have to value and appropriately compensate the people we rely on to take care of children for a living.  Licensed child care providers and early learning educators are the very definition of essential workers.  They deserve fair wages.”

“We know that child care gets Rhode Islanders to work, but increasing child care costs are making it difficult for families to find high quality, affordable options,” said Paige Clausius-Parks, EdM, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “That hurts our working families, young children, local employers, and our state's economy. Now, more than ever, we need dedicated funding to support access to high quality, affordable child care and early learning programs. And that is why we are so thankful for Senator Reed's leadership in delivering a $1 billion increase in federal funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant program and Head Start.”

Mary Varr, Executive Director of WHSCDA, stated: “Senator Reed, we are most grateful for your leadership which demonstrates your caring and commitment to providing all children with this foundation for success in school and life. We are also most grateful for your acknowledgement of our early childhood workforce and the need to work towards fair compensation for the essential work they do with our very young children.”

“Here at Beautiful Beginnings, we have a wait list of over 500 families who are desperately looking for quality, affordable child care options,” said Khadija Lewis Khan, MEd, Executive Director of Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center. “It is heartbreaking to have to turn families away, especially knowing that other child care programs across the state also have long waiting lists. At the same time, our field is facing a child care educator staffing crisis and we're losing educators to higher paying jobs in other sectors. That is why we are so thankful for the federal child care and early learning funding that Senator Reed has been a champion of for years. These extra funds are critical to increasing access to affordable, quality child care and to supporting our workforce of early educators. We thank Senator Reed for his commitment to investing in our care infrastructure, because just like roads and bridges, child care gets people to work.”

A 2024 cost of care report from found that 47 percent of American parents spend up to $18,000 a year on their child care expenses, spending an average of 24 percent of their household income.  The report, which surveyed 2,000 parents, also found that 35 percent of parents tap into savings accounts to cover child care.

Senator Reed says that federal child care and early education investments are vital to working families and critical to workforce development, job creation, and economic growth.  Access to high-quality, affordable, and reliable childcare is a significant factor in family well-being and parents’ ability to hold down a job, support their family, pursue their goals and thrive.  And high-quality child care programs staffed with skilled educators is a critical part of the state’s early learning system, helping children learn and develop skills necessary to succeed in school and life.  

However, affording and accessing quality child care is becoming more difficult.  In its 2023 Factbook, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT characterized the childcare system as “unworkable for most families” and found that only 10 percent of Rhode Islanders can afford childcare.  The report showed the cost for sending one infant to a certified childcare center in Rhode Island is $13,780 annually; for a preschooler it is $11,700; and a six to 12-year-old, $8,684.

Reed says the additional $1 billion increase for a single year for child care and early education programs stands out because it was accomplished amidst Congressional budget tensions and over the objections of House Republicans demanding severe cuts to social programs.  Reed noted that Senate Democrats, led by Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), had the upper hand in negotiations because the Senate Appropriations Committee was able to pass a strong, bipartisan package that included robust child care funding while House Republicans were unable to get through their proposal that would have forced deep cuts to education and child development programs.

Additionally, Reed, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), also helped secure an additional $277 million in this year’s military construction funding bill to establish new child development centers on U.S. military installations to provide the families of servicemembers with more child care options.

“We increased child care spending for military families because there is a clear need and it’s smart policy.  This investment strengthens our military by improving retention and recruitment.  It’s important our troops know their children are well cared for so they can focus on the mission,” said Senator Reed.

After COVID-19 hit, Senator Reed helped include an additional $93 million for Rhode Island child care programs in the 2021 stimulus bill to help child care providers stay afloat during the pandemic, sustaining child care for thousands of local children.

Congressional appropriators and the White House have already begun preliminary work on the fiscal year 2025 spending plan. 

Senator Reed is a cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act (S. 1360) which would fully fund capping the cost of child care, address the child care shortages, and ensure that early childhood educators earn livable wages.

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