The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is a federal and state partnership program that provides financial assistance to low-income families to access child care. Congress authorized the CCDF to streamline the “delivery and administration of child care programs at both the state and federal levels.” Administered by the Office of Child Care at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the CCDF is supported by a combination of funding streams: discretionary Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) appropriations and mandatory funds from the Child Care Entitlement to States (CCES).

The CCDF funds child care by providing vouchers or certificates for eligible families seeking child care services and by reimbursing child care providers to reserve slots for eligible children, many under the age of six. Policymakers established the CCDF with the goal of maximizing state flexibility to design child care and early learning program eligibility requirements, licensing regulations, and quality standards. As a result, CCDF program policies, eligibility requirements, licensing regulations, and quality standards vary by state. For example, in 2019, 12.5 million children were considered eligible under the federal CCDF requirements but only 8.7 million children were considered eligible under state rules and just two million of those eligible children actually received CCDF subsidies.

Prior to the administration of ARPA resources some state administrative practices and threshold requirements created unintended hardships for child care providers. However, amid the COVID pandemic and in an effort to get urgently needed capital in the hands of families, workers, and businesses, changes to the way monies were distributed has had an important and positive impact on how providers are paid and how families can access quality care. It is a change worth safeguarding to reduce administrative burden and create systems with equitable access to funding opportunities.

Read the full article about childcare access by Bevin Parker-Cerkez, Maggie-Leigh O’Neill, and Nicole Barcliff at LISC.