June 04, 2020

Supporting Military Families: Blumenthal & Kaine Introduce Legislation To Make Child Care More Accessible & Affordable

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced legislation today to make child care more affordable and accessible for military families. The Child Care Affordability and Accessibility for Military Families Act is supported by Blue Star Families, a national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening military families through community building, and the Service Women’s Action Network, a member-driven network that represents the voice of women who have served or are currently serving in the military.

“Child care is too expensive and waiting lists are too long across the board. But this burden is especially difficult to bear for military families, which also have to contend with frequent moves and deployments,” Blumenthal said. “Our legislation would improve and standardize affordable, accessible childcare policies so that servicemembers can defend our nation without the added stress of securing high-quality child care. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the military families who make sacrifices every day in service to our country – supporting their well-being is our responsibility, and absolutely fundamental to our national security.”

“Affordable, accessible childcare is so important, and military families who have to contend with the constant instability that results from frequent moves need our support,” said Kaine. “I’m pleased to introduce legislation to improve and lower the cost of childcare and standardize policies ensuring access to that care so that our military can focus on serving our nation.”

“Blue Star Families is deeply grateful to Senator Blumenthal and his colleagues for introducing this legislation on behalf of our military families,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO and co-founder of Blue Star Families. “These bills demonstrate Congress' willingness to listen to the stories that military families share through our annual Military Lifestyle Survey, to take concerns like childcare and quality of life issues seriously (insofar as they impact readiness, recruitment, and readiness), and to act in a way that sets the conditions for military families to thrive. Thank you, Senators, for continuing to keep the well-being of military families top-of-mind during this difficult time!”

The Child Care Affordability & Accessibility for Military Families Act would reduce child care costs for certain paygrades, require currently optional fee waivers and reductions, ensure competitive hiring practices to recruit high-quality child care providers, and expand programs that have already been voluntarily implemented by one branch of service, or which are being utilized on an ad hoc basis – improving and standardizing policies across the military and reducing the financial burden of child care for all military families.

This legislation would:

  1. Exempt Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments in calculating total income for servicemembers on active duty for certain pay grades to ensure lower childcare costs.
  2. Require military installation commanders to issue hardship waivers to military families and civilian authorities for child care. This hardship waiver is currently optional.
  3. Require an automatic 15 percent reduction in fees for all additional children of the same military family receiving child care from a Childcare Development Center. This fee reduction is currently optional, and this legislation would make it mandatory.
  4. Direct all military services to implement a fee assistance program for families immediately after a PCS move, similar to a recent Army policy change to make child care more affordable.
  5. Require all military services to establish partnerships between Military Treatment Facilities and non-profit or other organizations to ensure that servicemembers and military spouses have options for hourly child care during medical and mental health appointments. Services indicated that these partnerships have been established on an ad hoc basis, particularly with support from the Armed Services YMCA, and this provision would standardize this practice.
  6. Direct all military services to identify any additional benefits for child care employees and Family Child Care program providers to ensure a competitive hiring market, and direct additional marketing and recruitment by each military service to hire additional providers. This provision would also require each military service to conduct a study and subsequent report to Congress one year after date of implementation to assess competitive hiring practices among the top five military installations where child care demand is highest, and supply is lowest.

The Child Care Affordability & Accessibility for Military Families Act is one of a comprehensive set of policies Blumenthal has proposed to support the partners, children, and close relatives of servicemembers. Military families make immense sacrifices and confront unique challenges, including frequent moves, the stress of deployments, and the difficulty of caring for a loved one who has been injured. Family members provide servicemembers with an invaluable support system, and their well-being is essential to overall military readiness and our national security.

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