House Bill Puts Children First

Queens congressman introduces legislation to increase childcare funding for low-income families
March 20, 2014 Updated: March 20, 2014

NEW YORK—Walking into the lobby of The Child Center of NY in Corona, Queens, a bright yellow sign emblazoned with a Nelson Mandela quote greets visitors. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which we treat our children.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley brought those sentiments center stage at a press conference Thursday in which he announced the introduction of The Child First Act into the House of Representatives.

“We know that quality childcare is a huge factor in giving the child the right start in life,” said Crowley, speaking in a classroom at the center. “It helps with school readiness and builds cognitive skills.”

If passed, The Child First Act would bolster funding for The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) by $18.8 billion over ten years. The block grant is issued to states by the federal government to subsidize childcare for low-income parents. 

“What sometimes goes unrealized is the economic benefit that childcare brings as well. Having reliable quality childcare gives that family, that working parent, the help that they need to support their families,” said Crowley, flanked by a group of parents who receive subsidized childcare.

In addition to helping with childcare, it frees up parents to work more, thus giving them more economic opportunities, he said.

More Childcare Services

The CCDBG extends beyond childcare. Grants would fund childcare research, child services, parental development, and other initiatives meant to help children whose parents are struggling financially.

Yessica Gallardo, the parent of a 4-year-old at The Child Center of NY’s Headstart program in Corona, has benefited from the CCDBG. “They give us many workshops, a lot of information. They motivate us to study English and whatever else that they see that is a handicap [for us] so it’s double learning,” she said in Spanish. “It’s learning for the kids and learning for the parents as well.”

Gallardo is one of the lucky ones who qualified and made it through the lottery system to receive completely subsidized care. Her son is one of 146 children at the center, which has a wait list of 400.

Families living in the Queens neighborhood of Corona have a great need for childcare services. If CCDBG funding was increased, more spots could be opened up. 

Lillian Magliaro, administrative director at The Child Center, said the center can accommodate only about five more students at their current location. If the money was there, she says they could open more facilities. 

This year the CCDBG program operates with a budget of $2.9 billion, and reaches an estimated 2.6 million children. Under Rep. Crowley’s legislation, the budget would increase by about $1.8 billion a year, and services could reach an additional 1.4 million children.

The Senate passed the CCDBG last week, but without additional funding. If Crowley can get a vote on this bill in the House, he is optimistic he will win. 

“If my Republican colleagues will give me the opportunity to have this bill on the floor, I know that this bill would pass,” Crowley said.

Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK