Lawmakers Demand Release of State-Secured Child Care Funds

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — New York state legislators gathered around the state Thursday to demand the release of state funding to child care providers hit hardest during the pandemic.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) speaks in support for child care funding at the Family Enrichment Network Thursday. (Chris Whalen)

Speaking at the Family Enrichment Network in Johnson City on Thursday, Binghamton Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) said it is unclear whether the centers that went out of business at the beginning of the pandemic will be able to reopen if the state does not release child care funding allotted by the CARES Act soon.

“We’re saying here are some examples of where those resources are needed, and they’re needed now,” Lupardo said.

The resources child care providers need more include cleaning supplies and sanitizing equipment, which Kim Downs of Whitney Point Preschool said is hard to come by.

The preschool also needs more staff to manage the cleaning required to keep the premises safe, but face an $80,000 loss due to low enrollment.

“We will not be able to bring back at least six of our staff going into September, and we certainly won’t be able to hire more because of our loss of revenue,” Downs said.

According to a letter sent by lawmakers earlier this month, a quarter of all child care centers in New York have closed since the start of the pandemic. The state received $163 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for child care providers earlier this year.

Jennifer Perney, Child Care Resource and Referral Director for the Family Enrichment Network, said child care programs were struggling financially before the pandemic.

“The reduced capacity and enrollment during the pandemic, combined with the increased costs for health and safety, further enhances the problems,” Perney said.

So far, New York state has spent $95 million on child care services since the start of the pandemic. In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Division of the Budget told WSKG they will continue to evaluate the needs of parents and child care providers in allocating the remainder of the funding, while “understanding that those needs continue to change as we move through different phases of the pandemic and economic recovery.”

The assemblywoman said child care providers urgently need the remaining funds in order to meet the need for child care this school year, especially as districts reopen with increased remote learning.

Lupardo said legislators have yet to receive an answer to their letter demanding support for child care centers, but believes they will get more details shortly.