Childcare is “the highway to economic recovery”

One of the industries that was deeply affected by the pandemic was the child care industry in New York City. More than 1,200 child care operators closed permanently during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This has been a challenge for child care providers,” said Peter Nabozny of The Children’s Agenda in Rochester. Capital tonight. “Due to fixed costs and personnel, they suffered heavy losses. Mostly the smaller, home-based providers who are disproportionately located in urban areas and run by black and brown women.

The good news? Thanks to several federal funds, $ 2.4 billion is earmarked for the stabilization of child care centers, child care waivers for families and the reinvention of the state child care system.

In addition, there is more good news for the besieged sector. Governor Kathy Hochul has been deeply involved in child care issues.

While still Lieutenant Governor, Hochul chaired the Child Care Availability Working Group with Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS ) Sheila Poole.

Just this week, Hochul announced that the state has disbursed $ 89 million of the $ 1.1 billion in stabilization funds for child care services to child care providers as part of a program launched ago. less than a month.

Capital tonight asked Poole how the funding is intended to help the sector.

“[Providers] are able to use these funds in a very flexible way, whether it is to make improvements to their program to improve social distancing, to purchase new equipment, to replenish PPE, to help with rent, utilities, mortgages – challenges they may face as a result of the pandemic, ”Poole explained. “Frankly, this is a game-changer for suppliers. “

Advocates, including Nabozny of The Children’s Agenda, praised the OCFS web portal, saying it is very simple and easy to use, which Poole acknowledged.

“Often in less than three weeks vendors receive thousands and thousands of dollars directly deposited into their accounts,” said Poole. “If they want to, it’s really amazing.”

Unfortunately, not all of the federal money that went through the OCFS was so easily disbursed.

In late July, Dede Hill, policy director of the Schulyer Center for Analysis and Advocacy, said Capital tonight that the first round of federal funding took a long time to reach providers and parents.

“New York State has made many mistakes in providing CARES Act child care funds to child care providers and parents,” Hill said. “But it seems there are lessons learned.”

Poole said she “appreciated the sense of advocacy from advocates for the state to move with agility and speed,” but the funding from the CARES Act, which was released in March 2020, was the first pot of federal funding in pandemic case that the OCFS had to distribute.

“We definitely made a few missteps, for sure,” Poole added.

Another area the state can improve, advocates say, is the child care subsidy system.

Poole says the OCFS is working on it.

“This [funding] goes through local social service departments, ”said Poole. “And so we had to issue regulations, we had to issue guidelines, which we did, and these subsidy provisions will come into effect next month, at the end of October.”

With the release of the Child Care Availability Task Force report in May, the OCFS along with providers and advocates have a roadmap to follow in order to reinvent child care in the world. New York State.

“There is no doubt that the task force was incredibly robust, passionate and ambitious,” said Poole. “Child care is, metaphorically, the highway to economic recovery.”

Poole continued, saying the state is moving towards universal child care.

“Now is the time, I believe, for childcare in our country,” she said.

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