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What is CCDBG?

The Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG, is a 30-year-old funding stream for states that allows them to help low-income, working families afford child care, while supporting children’s learning and development (from birth through age 12). Popular on both sides of the aisle and given a record funding infusion in 2018 with bipartisan support from Congress and President Donald Trump, CCBDG is a key tool for states in supporting child development and improving families’ economic security.


Because affordable child care can play a crucial role in a low-income family’s ability to work, attend school, or otherwise achieve a new level of earnings and stability, Congress passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act in 1990. CCDBG provides flexible funding to states for child care subsidies for low-income, working families with children under 13.

How it Works

Eligible families who apply for and receive a subsidy may choose any child-care provider that meets state health and safety requirements. In some states, providers receive payment through a voucher or child-care certificate from a parent. In others, they are paid directly through a contract with the state. States are also required to set aside a minimum percentage of funds for quality improvement purposes. The state funds these subsidies and activities primarily with flexible CCDBG funds, which are administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

WithEvolution and Ongoing Bipartisan Support

Since CCDBG’s inception in 1990, much has been learned about the role of early learning and development on the success of a child, and CCDBG has become an important tool not just for helping families work, but also for helping them ensure their children get a strong start in life. When CCDBG won bipartisan reauthorization in 2014, the act explicitly named child development as one of its objectives. It provided funds to increase child care quality, established new health and safety standards, focused dome funding on care for infants and toddlers, and supported states to provide families with information about providers’ licensing, histories, and inspections.

Even as political polarization has increased, CCDBG has retained wide bipartisan support. In 2018, Republican President Donald Trump and majorities in both parties approved a historic increase of $2.37 billion for CCDBG. Congress approved an additional $50 million for fiscal year 2019, $550 million for 2020, $85 million for 2021, and $254 million for 2022. With strong bipartisan support, the final FY2023 omnibus spending package prioritized more than $2.8 billion in funding increases for core federal early learning and care programs, including a 30 percent increase in funding for CCDBG.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans and Democrats both prioritized child care as a crucial component for getting essential workers into the workplace, fueling workforce expansion, and simultaneously supporting the safety and development of children. All of the major relief packages passed by Congress contained significant infusions into CCDBG.

A recent bipartisan poll conducted for First Five Action Fund found that 76% of respondents would support a legislation package that included provisions to make child care more available and affordable.

Coverage Gap

While CCDBG is widely viewed as critical and has received increased federal support, most policy experts agree the funding isn’t close to the level necessary to serve all eligible families. The Bipartisan Policy Center reports that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 14 percent of children eligible under federal rules received CCDBG subsidies. Also, CCDBG subsidies do not cover the full cost of child care, which means child care providers’ full costs aren’t met and families are usually required to pay a copay –factors that contribute to gaps in access, affordability, and quality.


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