by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst
National Women’s Law Center

Children and families had reason to cheer last week when the House released details of its economic recovery proposal, because it included new funding for several critical child care and early education programs.  The House clearly realizes that if we want to help the economy recover in the short term and prosper in the long term, we first have to help families recover their financial footing and help children start on a path to success. 

Under the House bill, the Child Care and Development Block Grant would receive $2 billion to provide child care assistance for an additional 300,000 children in low-income families.  Head Start and Early Head Start would receive $2.1 billion to allow 110,000 additional children to participate.  IDEA Grants for Infants and Families would receive $600 million to help states serve children with disabilities ages two and younger.  Afterschool Meals would receive $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and increase reimbursement rates for snacks.  The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant—which many states use to fund child care, but which is facing increasing pressures as more families need basic assistance during the recession—would receive $2.5 billion.  And the Department of Defense would receive $360 million for the construction of new child development centers.

This new funding will provide critical help to parents straining to hold on to their jobs and pay their bills, child care and early education providers struggling to stay in business, and states confronting growing deficits.  It will enable children to be in safe, stable, nurturing settings while their parents work.

There is still a long way to go before Congress and the President approve a final economic recovery plan that includes new funding for these essential programs.  The House will debate its proposal, the Senate will have its own version of an economic recovery plan, and then the Senate and House will have to come up with a compromise measure that both can pass and that the President can sign.  But this is definitely an encouraging first step as a new year, a new Congress, and a new Administration get their start.