On Tuesday, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly by a count of 78-20 to increase funding for childcare for poor families by $6 billion over the next five years, despite objections from the White House. “You can’t get from welfare to work without childcare,” said Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), co-sponsor of the measure, according to the New York Times. The Bush Administration claimed that an increase in funding for childcare was unnecessary, the Times reports.
“The bottom line is, this measure, quite simply, is a recognition of realities,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the other co-sponsor of the proposal. “If we want the nearly 5 million people that remain on welfare caseloads to be able to transition off of welfare and remain off welfare, they must have access to quality, affordable child care.” Snowe’s office reports that, according to a 2002 Economic Policy Institute study, single mothers with young children who receive childcare assistance are 40 percent more likely to be employed after two years than mothers who did not receive such assistance.
The childcare proposal is part of the larger bill to renew the 1996 welfare reform law. The welfare renewal bill also provides up to $200 million per year for so-called “healthy marriage” programs, which have received much criticism from feminist and anti-poverty activists and scholars. “The marriage promotion agenda is an inappropriate use of government funds, and an ineffective antipoverty strategy…,” Wendy Pollack, senior attorney with the National Center on Poverty Law, said in a guest commentary for the National Organization for Women. “To force … poor mothers to consider this personal decision in the context of their need for public benefits is yet another example of government trampling individual privacy rights and avoiding the real issue of how to effectively address poverty.”