Most of us have heard about sequestration’s devastating impact on the federal Head Start program. Due to funding cuts, nearly 60,000 children were cut from the program in 2013, and some centers had to shut down classrooms or shutter their doors. Equally important but less visible are cuts to the child care subsidy system that have forced some families out of quality child care programs.
The government cut $115 million from the child care subsidy system in 2013 as a result of sequestration, exacerbating the damage done by years of funding that has failed to keep up with the growing cost of child care. Cuts to child care assistance have been largely absent from the national discussion on the impacts of sequestration, as they are difficult to quantify. Flexibility in federal child care funding allows states to set their own program requirements, including families’ eligibility, provider reimbursement rates, and health and safety standards. States can even choose to transfer funds from other federal grants into the child care subsidy funding stream, which can mask the impact of funding cuts. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many children have lost access to child care, there are some troubling trends in states and communities across the country.
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