WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed legislation to require child care providers who care for children from low-income families through a government voucher program to undergo criminal background checks, know first aid and CPR and get other training.
The bipartisan legislation, which passed by a 97-1 vote, would also require annual state inspections of child care centers. At issue is the $5 billion-plus spent annually to help provide care to 1.6 million children, many of whom are in single-parent households. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, cast the "no" vote.
Supporters of the legislation, designed to expand access to federally subsidized child care and improve its quality, say such care is a vital means to allow parents of modest means to stay in the workforce.
"For working families who live below the poverty line, the cost of childcare can eat up more than 30 percent of their monthly income," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "For single parents, if you have only one income, it is an even bigger burden."
The bill would require providers to meet a range of health and safety standards, including first aid, CPR and prevention of child abuse and sudden infant death syndrome. The bill also would require annual inspections of licensed programs and require that day-care centers be inspected before they are opened. Nine states, including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota, do not require annual inspections.
The program sends block grants to states to help them provide vouchers to help low-income parents pay for child care. Costs have risen sharply since the program was consolidated under the 1996 welfare reform law.