Senate Passes Carper Amendment To Increase Child Care Funds

Amendment Would Help Address Welfare Program’s Additional Work Requirements

WASHINGTON, DC (March 30, 2004) – The Senate today approved an amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would increase child care funding for families trying to move out of the welfare system and into steady jobs. The amendment was attached to a broader welfare reform measure by a 78-20 vote. Carper said the amendment, which would increase child care funds by $7 billion over the next five years, was necessary to keep up with the new work requirements in the underlying welfare reform bill. The amendment would mean an additional $18.2 million for Delaware. Carper praised the new work requirements for families, saying they would help strengthen the landmark 1996 welfare reform law by forcing states to bring more people into the workforce. Under the welfare bill up for consideration this week in the Senate, the average family would now have to perform 34 hours of work-related activities per week, compared to 30 hours under current law. The bill would also require states to increase the percentage of its welfare recipients who must be working from 50 percent to 70 percent over the next five years. However, Carper said the bill does not adequately meet the corresponding need for more child care and fails to address the problems with rising child care costs. “You can’t raise work requirements for welfare families without also increasing money for child care,” said Carper. “This amendment will strengthen family networks and help us achieve the real goal of welfare reform, which is to give families the incentive to find jobs, rebuild their lives and stay off welfare forever.” Facing a serious budget crisis and shrinking federal funds, states over the past several years have had to make severe cuts in their child care programs. These cuts have had various effects: fewer families are now eligible for assistance because states have cut their eligibility requirements; more families have been put on waiting lists for child care services; and state reimbursements to child care providers have been reduced. Delaware has not been immune, either. Although the state has not had to cut who is eligible for child care, Delaware has not been able to increase reimbursement rates for providers for the past six years. At the same time, the cost of child care continues to rise, meaning more newly-employed families have to pay out-of-pocket to find responsible child care providers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that it will take an additional $4.5 billion over the next five years simply to compensate for inflation and maintain current child care services for welfare recipients or those people transitioning off welfare and into work. The agency also said the new welfare bill being debated this week would require up to $1.5 billion in additional child care funds. President Bush provided no additional funding for child care in his fiscal 2005 budget request. As a result, the number of children receiving child care assistance could decline by nearly 447,000 over the next five years. Carper said his amendment, which is fully paid for and will not increase the size of the nation’s deficit, would allow child care services to keep up with inflation, while at the same time making a stronger commitment to families. “One of the most critical elements to help people get off welfare and stay off welfare is to provide adequate child care for families,” said Carper. “As we all know, people will not be able to go to work if there is nobody to take care of their children. This amendment will help ensure we provide the funds necessary for good child care.”