Exposure to high-quality early childhood education (ECE) is the foundation for future academic success, especially for children from low-income families. Increasing access to subsidized child care is one of the many pathways that Texas is utilizing to provide affordable early educational supports for children from low-income families. Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Workforce Commission recognize that focusing on quality early care and education provides a promising path forward for our children’s educational and economic success and our state’s economic competitiveness.

However, increasing access alone is not enough. The quality of these programs is the key to building a child’s brain that is primed for future learning. Investing in children from low-income working families is the cornerstone of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). CCDBG is the primary federal funding mechanism, intended to support a system of high-quality child care, focusing on meeting the needs of low-income children and families. In 2018, Texas received an historic amount of funding — $230 million, a 45% increase in funding.

Among many initiatives, the 2018 CCDBG funding was used to raise reimbursement rates, increase access to quality child care, and invest in innovative solutions to care. While many of these efforts accelerated Texas’ path towards quality, the destruction of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the child care industry is likely to diminish such progress if targeted actions and polices are postponed or abandoned.

In this report, CHILDREN AT RISK examines the utilization of CCDBG before and during COVID-19, specifically by focusing on the disbursement of the 2018 funding and the $371,663,374 in supplemental CCDBG funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and the Economic Security (CARES) Act. The report also describes how CCDBG funding was used to increase reimbursement rates and access to quality child care. In addition, the report explores investment in initiatives such as: shared services, public-private partnerships, contract agreements, an infant toddler network, and the workforce as innovative solutions to stabilize the child care industry. Within each section, we offer policy recommendations essential to improving the quality of affordable child care.