New York state has $2.4 billion to spend on shoring up its battered child care sector. But according to child care advocates, it’s been slow getting that money out the door.
State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, chairman of the Committee on Children and Families, blames the backlog, in part, on the Cuomo administration.
“They just sat on money," Hevesi said. "For no particular reason, they just sat on it when people were in need."
Conversely, Hevesi had positive words for the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the agency tasked with disbursing federal money to the child care sector.
“OCFS has been doing a very good job of getting money out the door,” Hevesi said.
If the state doesn’t expand its child care programming, there will continue to be workforce shortages, and the state’s push to re-open the economy will stagnate.
“We need to transform the child care system now,” he explained. “The beautiful part that we find ourselves in today is that we can just follow the recommendations of Gov. Hochul, who as lieutenant governor, was the head of the state’s Child care Availability Taskforce.”
Some of the recommendations made by the taskforce are addressed by legislation (see below). For example, one bill would pay counties 15% extra if they handle child care for homeless children.
“There are a lot of eligibility restrictions right now that we need to get a handle on,” Hevesi explained. “Eligibility is the game for us. The more people who become eligible for child care, the more money goes into the pockets of providers and they get to pay their workforce.”
Hevesi is also hopeful that Gove. Hochul uses her executive authority to expand and improve child care in the state.
“The 12-month eligibility (program) would allow any parent or any family whose income rises above the current cap of 200% of the federal poverty level, to keep their subsidies for 12 months,” Hevesi said. “If that gets implemented in an expedited way, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of families who won’t lose their subsidies for other reasons.”
Hevesi also believes that the governor could expand eligibility for child care for priority populations by executive action.
“It would actually allow, through emergency regulations, counties to expand access to parents who are in work-training, those who are homeless, those who are disabled, and others,” he said.
Package of Child care bills supported by Assemblyman Hevesi and the state’s child care taskforce:
A.7661 (Hevesi)/S.6655-A (Brisport) — Decoupling child care subsidies from parents’ hours of work. This bill will give counties the option to decouple subsidy from the exact hours a caregiver is working or engaged in an approved training, educational or other activity, helping the many parents and families who have seen their work hours involuntarily reduced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. In NYC alone it is estimated that 12,000 families could benefit from this law. Status: passed in the Senate but the Assembly ran out of time at the end of session
· S.6706-B (Brisport)/ A.7582-A(Hevesi) — Allowing Social Services Districts to Expand Child Care Subsidy Eligibility This bill will give counties the flexibility to use federal funds to provide subsidy to families earning more than 200% of FPL, but who are still struggling. In NYC alone, we estimate an additional 15,000 families would qualify for subsidies. Thousands more around the state would also qualify. Status: passed in the Senate but the Assembly ran out of time at the end of session
· A.7093 (Clark)/ S.6865 (Kennedy)— Remove Work Requirement for Student Parents Receiving Child Care Subsidies This would change the law such that counties could no longer require a parent receiving public assistance or with income up to 200% of the poverty threshold who is enrolled in an educational program (including a 2 or 4 year degree program) to also work at least 17.5 hours per week of work to qualify for a child care subsidy, placing a tremendous burden on parents who wish to pursue higher education that could allow for career development and advancement. Status: Advanced to third reading in Assembly, CHildren and Families in Senate
· A.7095 (Clark)/S.6077-A (Brisport) — Child Care Pay Rate Differential Requiring counties to pay a 15% subsidy differential for child care providers who offer care to children from families experiencing homelessness, and for children who need care during non-traditional hours (evening, nights, and weekend) – an essential step to addressing the critical shortage of care for these children. Status: Ways and Means in the Assembly, Finance in Senate
· A.7468 (Clark)/S.3903 (Kennedy) — Child Care Cost Study This bill would require NY to implement a cost estimation model which can provide valuable data on the actual cost of providing child care, not just what price is charged to parents. Status: referred to Ways and Means in Assembly, children and families in the Senate