Mr. President, I rise in support of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization bill, S. 1086, which is now pending before the Senate. I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation, which would send it to the President for his signature. I want to congratulate my colleagues, Senator Mikulski for her leadership on this bill, and Senator Harkin, Senator Alexander, and Senator Burr. This reauthorization has truly been a bipartisan effort and illustrative of the Senate HELP Committee’s effectiveness this Congress, and I congratulate Senator Harkin on his leadership of this committee as he retires from Congress next month. Through the HELP Committee’s leadership and work with their House counterparts, this legislation will serve to better support working families and children and make a significant improvement to our current child care programs.
The last time we authorized this program was in 1996. I know that very well because I was serving in the House of Representatives at the time and had the opportunity to be the ranking member on the Human Resources Subcommittee in the House Ways and Means Committee that was considering welfare reform and childcare, and how we could reward families for work, and how our welfare system could become a transitional program rather than a permanent program that would allow people, particularly moms, to be able to get into the workforce, stay in the workforce and climb up the economic ladder.
Today, under CCDBG, there are 1.6 million children eligible for program services. CCDBG provides not only a safe environment for those children, but allows 70 percent of their parents to work and an educational opportunity for the child at the same time. A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) study showed that parents who had their children in childcare for two years or more were more likely to remain employed. CCDBG provides stable employment, help for the child, and a positive economic situation for the family.
This bi-cameral, bi-partisan CCDBG reauthorization bill before us makes improvements to this successful program, as it should. It allows the States to develop 13 specific health and safety standards, such as first aid and CPR, and SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. It is keeping our children safer in childcare by having safety standards that are developed. This legislation: requires the States to do annual health, safety, and fire inspections of nearly all childcare providers; expands comprehensive background checks for those who are involved in childcare; steadily increases the annual authorization of appropriations; phases in a doubling of the annual set-aside for quality initiatives to 9 percent by 2019; makes information available online for parents to make informed child care decisions; promotes more transparency in the program; and provides additional State flexibility on how they can set priorities within the childcare program. This program is a model of how federalism should operate, with the federal government and the states collaborating together to improve the quality of life for many middle-class American families.
This legislation will accomplish our objectives so we can get more people into the workforce and provide access to early childhood education to help children succeed in life. This program will allow us to help American families and strengthen the economic security of America.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.