U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, wisely signed a bill that could help low-income Hoosier families keep their kids.
Under Senate Bill 3899, the number of families eligible for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program would increase eligibility for families earning 85% of the state’s median income – it turns out This is a major difference from a House bill that sets eligibility at 75%.
Additionally, an eligible family earning less than 75% of the state’s median income (now $58,235) would make no copayments for child care. No eligible family would have a copayment greater than 7% of family income.
Thus, Indiana families earning $49,500 or less are eligible for the program and those earning $43,676 or less do not have a child care copayment.
The Senate bill removes some regulations that restrict home child care providers in rural areas, as Young says. (Federal law currently imposes restrictions on real estate purchased or renovated using federal funds.)
Additionally, the provision relies on a state-initiated costing model for providers based on geography and child needs, among others. The model could lead to disparities, as states could include labor and operating costs in the formula; it is currently a county-wide model that uses child care availability.
The bill, drafted by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, is in response to the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House and would provide free care for children under age 6. Scott.
Young and other Republicans called Build Back Better reckless, saying it could raise the annual unsubsidized cost of child care from $15,888 to around $29,000.
The Senate bill is not too far removed from the House legislation. Both are reworking parts of the 1990 federal block grant program. After 30 years, political parties are still refining or tinkering with its provisions.
House Bill 2817 by Rep. Robert Scott, D-Virginia, would allocate funds to states to provide services to all children with disabilities.
Each state would be required to create a tiered system to measure quality of care and then set reimbursement rates on a sliding scale. No family receiving assistance would spend more than 7% of their household income on child care.
The bill also provides funds and establishes grants for states to create preschool programs for low- to middle-income children ages 3 to 5.
And the Department of Health and Human Services must provide grants to Head Start agencies to allow children to access services throughout the school year and throughout the school day.
Head Start teachers and staff should also be paid a living wage. The bill also includes a no-copay clause for families earning less than 75% of a state’s median income.
A US News & World Report article found Indiana ranked among the worst states for child care costs, averaging $9,589 per year for a 4-year-old.
For single parents, this represents 35.7% of their median income or 10.5% of the median income of a married couple.
Many times it is wise to reiterate the essential elements of any child care legislation:
Affordable care must be accessible regardless of changes in income or employment.
Renewed attention should be given to services for infants and toddlers, including care and family responsibilities. Pre-school programs are essential.
Reimbursement to providers should be based on quality of care; facility inspection is crucial, as are professional development systems for staff.
Other building blocks should focus on children with special needs and expand opportunities for quality care for diverse populations and underserved areas.
While Congress rarely makes sweeping changes, Senate and House bills promise to address many of the items listed above. But there is still a long way to go.