There are many moving pieces to the federal budget. Understanding how funding is approved and when it becomes available can help programs prepare to respond to opportunities as they arise. In this blog post, we review the current status of federal funds related to early childhood education and what may be on the horizon for the upcoming federal fiscal year.

New funds are available (or will be soon) following the December 2022 approval of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. The Act provides discretionary spending through September 30, 2023, the end of the 2023 fiscal year. As summarized by the House Committee on Appropriations, early childhood education programs received notable increases; this includes Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, and Preschool Development Grants.

What does the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 mean for Head Start, specifically? A February 2023 Program Instruction (PI) issued by the Office of Head Start (OHS) specifies that the $930 million increase for Head Start includes the following.

  • $596 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant recipients. COLA must be used to permanently increase staff salaries. Funding guidance letters are being issued.
  • $262 million for quality improvement. While quality improvement dollars can be used for many purposes, OHS emphasizes the need for increasing staff compensation as part of recruitment and retention strategies, as well as addressing the need for enhanced mental health services.
  • $100 million for expansion of Head Start, Early Head Start, and EHS-CCP. This competitive grant funding will be awarded by September 2024, and OHS anticipates issuing a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in fall 2023 (now is the time to prepare for competitive grant writing).
  • $8 million for Tribal College and University Head Start (TCU-HS) Partnership programs. The purpose of this funding is to strengthen career pathways. A NOFO for this funding is expected by summer 2023.

What’s coming next for the fiscal year 2024 budget? Currently, fiscal year 2024 budget negotiations are underway. The President’s proposed FY2024 budget includes historic increases for early childhood programs, one of which is $600 billion for child care and universal preschool for 4-year-olds through a federal-state partnership. It also includes funding to support the child care needs of military families as well as extension of the Child Tax Credit. These initiatives are aimed at stabilizing the child care sector and increasing access to high-quality programs for children and families.

Typically, not everything makes it through budget negotiations. FY2024 budget planning will continue to move forward over the next couple of months.

What other federal activities could impact the early childhood education community?

Last month, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers. This comprehensive Executive Order is designed to support the child care workforce while increasing families’ access to high-quality, affordable care. Child Care Aware of America provides a summary of what the order means for child care, citing a number of strategies that will be implemented; this may include policy updates, dissemination of best practices, issuance of guidance, and improvements to data collection and information sharing with the goal of supporting the workforce.

The push and pull between federal budget planning and actions to increase child care quality and access will likely continue for some time. We encourage you to stay informed by monitoring funding opportunities on and engaging in advocacy (e.g., through NHSA or First Five Years Fund), as desired.

Foundations for Families offers a variety of Consulting Services to support programs. If your program is in need of assistance, we would be glad to explore your program’s needs and how we can assist. Please reach out for more information.

Thank you,

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