Lawmakers Push for $5 Billion Toward Universal Child Care Access in New York

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NEW YORK NOW – A new coalition of Democrats in the state Legislature wants Gov. Kathy Hochul and their colleagues to support an investment of $5 billion into the state’s struggling child care industry in this year’s state budget.

A group of 47 lawmakers from the State Senate and Assembly released a joint statement Monday calling for the funding boost, which they said would set New York on a path toward universal access to child care.

“A failure to meaningfully invest in child care ignores the urgent needs of the state’s economy struggling with severe staff shortages that are partially due to the lack of access to affordable child care,” the statement said.

State Sen. Jabari Brisport, D-Brooklyn, and Assm. Andrew Hevesi, D-Queens, who both chair the Committee on Children and Families in their respective chambers, signed onto the statement.

Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-Queens, and Assm. Sarah Clark, D-Monroe, who’ve crafted their own bill to expand child care in New York, were also on the statement.

They wrote, in part, that Hochul’s plan to expand access to child care, as included in her executive budget proposal this month, fell short of what they’d like to see in a final spending plan.

“This is not a strong start, and does not come close to universal child care,” the statement said.

Hochul has proposed a new investment of $1.4 billion to help subsidize New York’s child care industry, which has lost thousands of providers over the last decade. That trend has accelerated during the pandemic.

The state Office of Children and Family Services has also made grant funding available to providers in underserved areas of the state, but that hasn’t saved all of them.

About 1,500 child care providers closed between April 2020 and last February, a span of just 10 months, according to the Schuyler Center, a nonprofit group focused on family issues.

The coalition of Democrats who want $5 billion in new child care spending wrote on Monday that investing that amount into the industry could be a huge step toward creating universal access in New York.

That money would largely be used to expand child care subsidies for low-income families, increase the reimbursement rates of those subsidies, and raise wages for workers in the industry.

Federal data has shown that child care providers, even in New York City, are paid an average wage of $15.29 per hour — just 29 cents more than the minimum wage in the five boroughs.

There have been multiple proposals now to expand access to child care in New York, but they weren’t reflected in Hochul’s budget proposal.

Lawmakers will now negotiate a final deal on child care with the Hochul administration over the next two months. The state budget is due at the end of March.