Bad Timing: Child Care Aid Funding Hit a 10-Year Low in 2012

Child care aid is a big rung on the economic ladder because subsidies help struggling parents pay for child care while they work, train for a new job or go to school. This aid allows working but still poor parents to move into the ranks of the middle class.

Given its central role for families headed in the right direction, why has spending on child care assistance fallen to a 10-year low?


A new report released this week shows that child care aid in 2012 fell to its lowest level since 2002, down to $11.4 billion. That’s a decrease from $12.9 billion in 2011. In fact, 38 states spent less on child care support in 2012 than the year earlier, according the analysis from CLASP.

The drop is likely being fueled by two developments, the end of the 2008 federal economic stimulus package and less federal welfare money being spent on child care, according to the report. (Total child care support is a combination of funds from the Child Care Development Block Grant and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.)


It’s been a tough decade for state and federal spending, with the one of the worst economic downturns in a long time. But, that recession is one of the main reasons why child care subsidies are so important now. Plus, child care aid supports economic growth, and higher tax revenues that follow, by helping people move into higher-paying jobs.


In Washington state, the Legislature is debating a bill that would improve child care subsidies. The Early Start Act would make it easier for families to maintain child care subsidies and create more reliable funding for providers. The legislation, however, goes well beyond these steps, including provisions that would improve child care quality by expanding participation in the state’s quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers. (Read more about the bill here.)


Progress on the President’s Early Ed Plan

When President Barack Obama first announced his plan for a new early education system two years ago there was a lot of excitement.


Now, the federal government has made one of its first steps to implement the president’s vision, and while there wasn’t the same attention, it’s important.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new website for Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships, which were included in January’s budget deal between Congress and the White House.