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Only a quarter of Alabama children eligible to receive federal childcare funds receive it

The First Five Years Fund, a childcare advocacy group collaborating with federal lawmakers to enhance affordability and accessibility of childcare, unveiled a new data sheet for Alabama on Wednesday, revealing that only 24% of eligible children in the state receive federal childcare funds.

The cornerstone of the nation’s childcare initiatives, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, is deemed crucial by the First Five Years Fund in rendering childcare more affordable and accessible. CCDBG stands as the primary federal grant program empowering states to furnish childcare assistance to low-income working families.

Per the organization’s data sheet, Alabama harbors 350,945 children aged 5 and under, of which 217,053 (62%) have both parents in the workforce. Among these, 102,820 are eligible for CCDBG assistance; however, merely 24,282 of these eligible children are currently benefiting from the program in Alabama, citing inadequate federal funding as the primary impediment.

Families with federal subsidies pay a nominal fee ranging from $72 to $156 monthly for childcare, whereas those without subsidies incur expenses between $440 and $908 monthly. Such disparities can profoundly impact their ability to cover basic living expenses such as rent and transportation, or to maintain gainful employment. Alabama has one of the nation’s lowest workforce participation rates, with affordable childcare identified as a pivotal factor hindering economic engagement.

The First Five Years Fund underscores the imminent deliberations on FY25 funding for CCDBG by a significant House subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville). The program, instrumental in enabling thousands of lower-income Alabama families to access childcare and pursue work or educational opportunities, remains constrained by existing funding levels, thus failing to reach a substantial portion of eligible families.

A recent May 2024 poll released by the First Five Years Fund indicates robust bipartisan support for increased federal funding to states, particularly for expanding childcare services. 85% percent of all voters, including 73% of Trump supporters and 95% of Biden backers, express readiness to favor candidates advocating for higher federal funding for childcare programs like CCDBG.

Sarah Rittling, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund, emphasizes the indispensable role of CCDBG in supporting both families and childcare providers. Rittling asserts that adequate funding is paramount to facilitating reduced out-of-pocket expenses for eligible families, alongside bolstering compensation for childcare workers and alleviating wait lists, thereby fortifying the economy.

In Alabama, eligibility for CCDBG is capped at 59% of the state median income (SMI), equating to a maximum monthly income of $3,258 for a family of three ($39,096 annually). Priority for enrollment is accorded to children with special needs, those experiencing homelessness, and families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

Presently, Alabama receives $192,129,922 in federal CCDBG and mandatory funds, with an additional $9,399,553 allocated from state coffers as matching funds for CCDBG. Furthermore, $18,601,452 in TANF funds are allocated to CCDBG in Alabama.

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