As spring approaches, there’s nothing more wonderful than finding the early blooms peaking their way through the hard, brown soil. They represent hope for warmth and growth to come. This March, we are starting to see early blooms peeking out from seeds planted by Congress and state leaders into Kentucky’s child care system. And we know beautiful growth is ahead! This calls for both celebration and continued attention to ensure that all working families in Kentucky have access to high-quality child care.

Last spring, Congress delivered an historic increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) at a critical time for children and families in Kentucky. The Bevin Administration is putting the additional $42 million to good use. The new funding provided in FY 2018 has already been used to cover identified gaps in access to high-quality child care. Last December, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced that it would increase provider payment rates, increase eligibility at recertification so that parents do not suddenly lose child care assistance when they get a promotion or better paying job, remove a 20-hour work requirement for parents enrolled in post-secondary education or training, pay for background checks, and cover child care assistance for children in foster care. The CCDBG investments will impact child care centers in most Kentucky counties.

We thank Kentucky’s Congressional delegation for supporting this much-needed increase in support for child care. We are also grateful to Governor Bevin and his administration for listening to child care providers, parents, and advocates and wisely putting the new dollars to use in ways that will have the biggest impact for kids and families. Over the next few months, Kentucky Youth Advocates will be working with our Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children partners to learn from child care providers what the increase has meant for their programs and the families they serve and share that with policymakers.

We celebrate the progress that has been made but know that our work is far from done. Nationally, total funding for child care (including CCDBG funds and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds used for child care) in FY 2018 remained nearly $1 billion short of the total funding level in FY 2001 after adjusting for inflation. In Kentucky, this has meant payment rates for child care providers fall far short of what is necessary to support high-quality care, parents who struggle or exit the workforce because they cannot afford child care, and shortages of quality child care centers in parts of the state, especially for infants and toddlers.

We urge our federal delegation to build on the progress they helped deliver and address continuing gaps by increasing CCDBG funding by an additional $5 billion in the FY 2020 appropriations bill. This funding increase will further expand access to high-quality child care to allow more parents to work, contribute to the well-being of children, and strengthen our economy.

Are you also excited about increased funding for child care? Take a moment to contact your Congressmen and thank them.