New York News Connection

November 20, 2014Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Long Time Coming: Child Care Bill Signed Into Law

“Tears of Joy” From Advocates

Mark Scheerer

COMMACK, N.Y. - After 18 years of no congressional action, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) finally has been signed into law.

The measure revises the block grant to include basic provisions to improve the quality of child care around the country.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation Wednesday after a Senate vote of 88-to-1 on Monday.

Janet Walerstein, executive director of the Child Care Council of Suffolk, says she has been working toward this moment for more than 18 years.

"We're thrilled," she says. "I mean, I'm thrilled. I was - tears came to my eyes when it went to the Senate and passed.

"So, yes, I'm over the moon. Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray."

However, Walerstein and other advocates point out that the funding increases authorized in the bill fall short of what is needed to support implementation of new provisions and to reduce a decline in enrollment in the CCDBG program.

The bill authorizes $5.3 billion in federal child care assistance annually.

Walerstein says Congress will have to approve funding for implementation.

"It strengthens the health and safety requirements, so with that comes cost," she stresses. "And then, it's supposed to improve access to child care by expanding eligibility. That also will need support."

The only no vote was cast by Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.

Bipartisan support for the child care legislation would seem to augur well for further agreement on implantation funding, according to Walerstein.

"It would seem to me that that would be in the offing, that there are probably ways in which we can get together and really make this happen as a really great move for quality in child care," she says.

In Washington, Michelle McCready, director of public policy with Child Care Aware of America, says "now the hard work has to be done," but believes the spirit of bipartisanship will prevail.

"The measures in the bill are very commonsense and very near and dear to anybody who's representing people in the United States or their district," she says.

States will have to conduct background checks on all child care providers receiving the grants and carry out at least one annual inspection of licensed CCDBG providers.

States also are permitted to use some of the federal funds to promote nutritional and physical education for children in the program.