Parents will be able to check their eligibility for financial support for child care programs in New York under a new web tool unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul's office.

At the same time, the Hochul administration re-established a statewide panel tasked with developing plans for the implementation of universal child care in the state.

"As a mother who put her career on pause due to a lack of affordable child care, I understand first-hand how important this lifeline is for families," Gov. Hochul said. "Complimenting the major investments made in funding child care, we are taking significant steps to improve the process of finding care, widen program eligibility, and support our workforce to ensure all New Yorkers have access to these critical resources."

New York officials over the last several years have sought to widen access to child care programs in New York after years of shortages and "deserts" that have made it difficult for families to find programs.

The screening tool allows families to complete a questionnaire that can help them determine whether they meet the basic criteria for financial assistance and then directs them to a local social services department to help them apply for funding. The tool is available in 12 languages on the state Office of Children and Family Services website.

Meanwhile, the task force on child care availability met this week for the first time since May 2021 when it released a final report.

"We know that less than 10 percent of children eligible for child care assistance actually receive it. OCFS has been proud to administer Gov. Hochul's historic investments to support families in paying for child care, as well as strengthening the providers themselves to grow the state's existing programs and create new ones," New York State Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner and Task Force Co-chair Suzanne Miles Gustave said. "With her vision as our guidepost, I am excited to co-chair this task force as we explore pathways to universal child care and making New York a model for accessible, affordable and equitable options."