On Wednesday, March 18, the Zero to Three Policy Center held a conference call to discuss the various planning tools available to states who want to use the economic stimulus funds to support infants, toddlers, and their families. Zero to Three Executive Director Matthew Melmed gave an overview of the sources of funding for infants and toddlers in the ARRA. As you know, the stimulus includes $87 billion in new funding for Medicaid; $500 million in new funding for the Women, Infants, and Children Program; $5 billion in temporary emergency funds to meet Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ (TANF) rising caseloads; and $500 million in new funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The recovery package dramatically increases the country’s investment in early childhood, with $2.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start and $2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant. It is important to note that the stimulus funds for the majority of these programs will go through the normal funding channels.
Melmed anticipates states will use portions of the new Title I money for early childhood programs, like state-funded pre-kindergarten, Head Start, child care, and screening children for development delays and disabilities. Elliot Regenstein of the Education Council argued that a lot of the key decision making will play out on a district level because of the flexibility of Title I. He urged early childhood advocates to come together and develop plans for using the funds while adhering to the federal guidelines, which essentially stipulate that funds be used quickly and have a long term impact.
Funding early childhood education services is an applicable use of the $39.5 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund as well. However, Melmed believes states will use as much of the new money to fill their budget gaps as possible under federal law. “It will be an issue of intense focus and negotiation over the next few weeks as the Department of Health and Human Services develops its guidance,” he said.
Zero to Three Director of State Policy Initiatives Barbara Gebhard discussed the planning tools that the Policy Center has assembled, which include a self-assessment checklist for states on infant and toddler policies and demographic information on young children in all 50 states. Attached please find the National Center for Children in Poverty’s early childhood profile on Michigan.
A complete resource list of planning tools may be found at http://www.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/ARRA_Resources.pdf?docID=7941.