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Shaheen, Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Create First-of-its-Kind Program to Make Child Care More Available for Military Families

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Armed Services and Appropriations Committees and Chair of the Small Business Committee, is introducing bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) to respond to the shortage of child care availability across the country, including for military families. This bill proposes a first-of-its-kind Department of Defense-led pilot program to support workforce development opportunities for child care providers and to add capacity to the child care sector by increasing recruitment, retention and training of child care staff. Just last week, Shaheen and Ernst chaired a hearing together for the U.S. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee focused on the child care crisis.

“Access to affordable, reliable child care is vital to our workforce, families and the overall economic development of our communities. Right now, too many military families, including those in New Hampshire, face unique challenges in accessing high-quality, affordable child care due to frequent moves and new school enrollments for their children,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Ernst to develop a first-of-its-kind pilot program to leverage resources from the Department of Defense to train child care providers, increase available child care slots in communities across the country and provide new career development opportunities that will strengthen the capacity of the child care sector overall and help early childhood education teachers thrive.”

“During the Month of the Military Child, I’m working on a new effort to uplift our incredible servicemembers and their families,” said Senator Ernst. “As a mom and a new grandma, I know it takes a village to raise a child and that our military members need high-quality, affordable child care for their young ones. By boosting training and recruitment efforts, this bipartisan bill will ensure military kids are safe and loved while their parents diligently train and prepare to protect our nation.”

Specifically, the Expanding Child Care for Military Families Act would:

  • Enable the Department of Defense (DoD) to enter into partnerships with both private and public child care centers on or near DoD installations.
  • Require the Department to provide certification and training opportunities and to participate in recruitment and retention programs for child care providers at the participating child care center(s).
  • Give the DoD the authority to enter into a partnership agreement with national service agencies like AmeriCorps to allow service volunteers to be placed at child care centers participating in the DoD pilot program.
  • Assess current administrative resources available to families to identify areas of improvement for child care enrollment procedures.
  • Encourage DoD to recruit and offer training and certification to eligible military spouses.

Senator Shaheen has been a leader in advocating for more accessible and affordable child care. She helped introduce the Right Start Child Care and Education Act, which would make child care more affordable and accessible for working families by reforming the federal tax code. She recently helped introduced the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Enhancement Act, which would permanently expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which helps households offset their child care costs. Late last year, Shaheen took to the Senate floor urging Congress to pass President Biden’s request for $16 billion to support child care stabilization grants in the domestic supplemental funding request. In 2021, Senator Shaheen led the effort to deliver $77 million in child care relief funding to the State of New Hampshire through the American Rescue Plan. Since then, she has worked to hold the state accountable for delays in distributing some of those federal funds and helped deliver grants throughout the state, especially in communities that lack access to child care facilities.

Shaheen helped introduce the Child Care Stabilization Act, which would provide additional federal child care stabilization funding—which was provided in the American Rescue Plan—and ensure that child care providers can keep their doors open and continue serving children and families in every part of the country. Shaheen joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to introduce the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would provide affordable child care for all working families, expand access to preschool programs and increase wages for early childhood workers. She also joined U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in reintroducing the bipartisan Childcare Workforce and Facilities Act to address the national shortage of affordable, quality child care, especially in rural communities. In the government funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2024, Senator Shaheen worked to include a $1 billion increase for early education, including a $725 million increase to $8.75 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants to states and a $275 million increase to Head Start, funding the program at more than $12 billion for FY 2024. The law additionally includes $315 million for Preschool Development Grants.