WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill to help families access affordable early childhood education by helping streamline states’ application systems, integrate technology systems, and eliminate duplicative paperwork.
“Without a streamlined system, many families applying to federally-funded early childhood education programs are left in the dark about what their children qualify for, and even once they do determine those programs, they are saddled with duplicative, confusing paperwork,” said Senator Hassan. “My bipartisan bill would help consolidate states’ early childhood education program applications so that parents can get their children the support that they need, and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this commonsense bill.”
The Improving Early Childhood Data Systems Act would create a new grant for states to streamline the application process for low-income families seeking child care through federally-funded programs. Specifically, states could use the funding to upgrade their technology and data systems and improve data coordination between the child care system and other programs that help families, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As a result, when families apply for programs like these, they could be notified about what other programs they are eligible for, and their data could be used more effectively to coordinate program administration across the state.
Senators Hassan and Cornyn’s bill is supported by national and New Hampshire groups, including the First Five Years Fund, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Early Learning New Hampshire, Save the Children, Center for American Progress, and Child Care Aware of America.
“The pandemic elevated the severity of the child care gap to the national stage, demonstrating a systemic deficiency in data pertaining to access, need, supply, and parental preference in child care,” said Linda Smith, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center Early Childhood Initiative. “Congressional relief funds aided states in directing increased resources toward improved data systems, but sustained, long-term supports are needed to adequately upgrade state systems nation-wide. BPC is proud to support the Improving Early Childhood Data Systems Act, which will serve as a critical resource in mapping our nation’s child care needs, informing state, tribal, and federal child care policy.”
“Early Learning NH, a statewide nonprofit with a mission to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, endorses the Improving Early Childhood Data Systems Act, which will provide funding to a few states to improve and integrate their early childhood data systems and update their technology,” said Jackie Cowell, Executive Director of Early Learning NH. “We were honored to be the Governor-designated coordinator of New Hampshire's first early childhood advisory council, Spark NH, which has now evolved into the Council for Thriving Children. As part of that work and journey, the benefit of an integrated early childhood data system to families with young children and to those providing programs and services was clear. We are grateful this bill is being introduced.”
Senator Hassan is working to strengthen early childhood education. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan cosponsored the bipartisan Supporting Early-Childhood Educators’ Deductions (SEED) Act to expand tax breaks for educators. She joined the rest of the New Hampshire congressional delegation in announcing nearly $9 million to strengthen New Hampshire’s early childhood education system, and following calls from Senator Hassan, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced that it is expanding HeadStart Program eligibility to help more families in New Hampshire and across the country access affordable, high-quality early education services.