A national survey out of Northeastern University on the importance of child care to the economy concluded that "absent adequate investment, childcare disruptions can hamper the economic recovery in the short-term and economic growth in the long-run.”

New York state Sen. Jabari Brisport, chair of the Senate Committee on Children and Families, is leading the charge in New York state for universal child care. He told Capital Tonight that the sector is currently facing enormous challenges.

“It is suffering right now. We have seen a lot of child care centers close throughout the pandemic and the ones that are still there, you could say they are on life support,” Brisport explained.

According to advocates, one reason the system is hurting is that the subsidy system creates significant barriers to accessing child care for many families. 

Among those barriers: complicated application processes requiring significant documentation; significant and confusing variations in eligibility rules across counties; and long waits for applications to be processed. 

Brisport told Capital Tonight that these issues come out of good intentions, but that that whole child care model needs to be changed.

“A lot of those complications, Susan, come from, essentially, means testing and categorizing people based on income and saying 'you pay this much if you make this much,'” Brisport said. “And the intent of that makes sense. The wealthier should pay more.”

But the end result can force families in poverty to slog through bureaucratic red tape.

“In my opinion, the best way to move forward is to make [child care] free at the point of service, for all people who partake in it, and have it funded through a more progressive taxation system,” explained Brisport.

Sen. Brisport will begin a statewide listening tour on child care issues on Wednesday Sept. 29. He will be in the Hudson Valley on Nov. 3; Central New York on Nov. 10; the Finger Lakes and Western New York on Nov. 17 and in the Capital District on Nov. 24.