Universal child care is ‘the North Star’
Originally, President Joe Biden had wanted to provide subsidized child care through the Cut Inflation Act to Americans earning less than $300,000 a year, but that was scrapped.
What was originally proposed through the original Build Back Better legislation was an overhaul of the subsidized child care system in the United States – something that would have expanded eligibility for more families in a variety of circumstances.
According to Peter Nabozny, policy director for Children’s Agenda in Rochester, the proposal would have created evening and weekend child care for families and adequately compensated child care providers.
“In the end, it didn’t make the final package,” Nabozny said. “It was a big disappointment for many defenders like me, but also for many families across the state.”
In August, the Children’s Agenda released a report on how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic has been for the child care industry in New York City. The study looked at programs that were in operation in January 2020 and examined whether they were still running in January 2022. The result? A quarter of state suppliers had closed.
“What we found was that more than 3,500 child care operators that were operating before the pandemic closed during the pandemic,” Nabozny said.
While some reopened, the state ended up with 1,300 fewer providers, or 10,000 fewer child care spaces, as well as expanded child care deserts.
“Overall, the greatest losses in child care capacity have been seen in rural parts of the state. We highlighted Lake Saranac in the report, which lost about half of its pre-COVID child care capacity. said Nabozny. “It’s become a childcare wasteland. It wasn’t before the pandemic.
Childcare deserts have also been found in high-poverty urban areas where there have been big losses in family childcare, that is, childcare that someone can provide outside from is home.
“Albany’s South End was another community we highlighted that lost a lot of child care capacity during the pandemic,” he said. “He fell further into that child care wilderness status.”
The Children’s Agenda report recommended four steps New York State should take to strengthen the child care sector in the future, including establishing a long-term commitment to child care universal.
“Universal child care is the North Star for many of us who have championed it. We believe childcare should be treated as something akin to public education where every child has that right,” Nabozny said. “Families need child care for many different life circumstances and we should treat them that way.”
The report also recommends the establishment of a permanent stabilization program; target specific supports for family caregivers; and establishing a system whereby child care providers are always paid even on days when a child is absent.
“There are structural changes we can make to the system that would really strengthen our system for our next economic downturn,” Nabozny said.
As for Nabozny’s thoughts on next year’s state budget, he said capital tonight that he and his colleagues hope the governor and legislature will find significant funding for child care. This year, the budget included increases for suppliers.
“Specifically, we need to take this permanent stabilization fund … and really turn it into a workers’ compensation fund,” he said.