Public Policy and Advocacy Update
Once again, child care is in the news - at every level of government.
County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposed 2017 budget maintained the child care subsidy specialist position at the Council and child care subsidy funding at 2016 budgeted levels. Actual subsidy spending in 2016 however, was expected to go $4 million over budget. The Council worked hard to increase subsidy dollars, publicizing and testifying at the budget hearings and launching an electronic letter-writing campaign. Thanks to the efforts of many in the child care and after school community, as well as Council staff and board members, the Westchester County Board of Legislators added $1 million to the subsidy program in a budget that was ultimately agreed to by the County Executive.
This was a solid outcome in what was the toughest budget year in recent memory – the 7th budget proposed with no tax increase. But additional child care funding is essential, not only to accommodate actual demand by working parents, but to cover an increase in the reimbursement rate for programs and providers coping with ever higher operating expenses, including a minimum wage hike.
New York State
For the second year in a row, advocates called for a significant increase in child care funding only to lose out in the final budget. Last year, the Governor proposed an add of only $10 million. This year, he proposed level funding, but used a transfer of $27 million out of Title XX to achieve it; that move was ultimately rejected and Title XX was restored. Despite strong efforts in the Assembly to find $27 million for child care, only $20 million was approved, leaving a $7 million hole. Advocates including the Council had called for $100 million of new child care funding for the implementation of new federal requirements that improve safety and quality, and to expand access. Currently, only 17% of NYS children eligible receive a child care subsidy. The $7 million cut could eliminate 900 more children from the program.
The call for $150 million of new PreK funding for areas outside NYC fell short as well. The new budget includes $5 million for 3 and 4 year old children in high-need districts, with priority for those that do not yet have any PreK programs. $11 million that was allocated last year for PreK for 3 year olds but not spent was re-appropriated.
The final budget amended the NYS Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to increase the amount received by families with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 with children in qualifying child care. Families with three or more children in care could receive even a more substantial credit.
Advantage After School was cut by $2.5 million. The new Empire State After School Program was funded with $35 million; this funding will be available to school districts in municipalities participating in the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative or those in counties or school districts with a child poverty rate above 30% or with 5,000 to 20,000 children living in poverty.
Home visiting did not fare well with flat funding for Healthy Families New York and a cut of $75,000 for the Nurse-Family Partnership home visitation program.
There was a major victory for youth however, as the final budget included legislation to “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 years over a two year period. New York had been one of only two states (North Carolina the other) to treat 16 year olds as adults. $110 million of capital funding was approved for new and existing buildings.
For more detail on the Final Budget, see the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy’s Last Look at the NYS 2017-2018 Final Budget.
The Council will continue to fight for a serious child care investment in the state budget. To see our Community View published by lohud.com on April 7, 2017, click here
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the major federal program for child care assistance so low-income families can work or obtain education and training to improve their economic self-sufficiency. CCDBG was reauthorized in 2014 with overwhelming bi-partisan support and an acknowledgement that new funding was necessary to actually meet the goals of the CCDBG Act, with its new emphasis on child care quality and family-friendly eligibility policies.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget reflected his continued efforts to significantly increase investments in child care and early education; he proposed increases to child care, Head Start, Early Head Start and Preschool Development Grants as well as an expansion of the Child and Development Tax Credit.
After failing to adopt a new budget for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) for months, and relying instead on temporary spending bills, Congress just reached a bi-partisan agreement on a spending measure that will keep the government funded through September. Happily, the budget includes modest increases to several critical child care/early learning programs:
- The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) was raised by $95 million, bringing total discretionary funding to $2.856 billion.
- Head Start was raised by $85 million, including $80 million for cost of living increases and $5 million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. Head Start funding now totals $9.253 billion.
- The 21st Century Learning Center Program received an increase of $25 million, bringing total funding to $1.19 billion.
Preschool Development Grants were level funded.
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) estimates that the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) must be increased by $1.4 billion to implement the new federal regulations without further reducing the number of children served. Given that President Trump’s “skinny budget” calls for an 18% reduction in Health and Human Services, which administers CCDBG, we will need to advocate very effectively over the next few months. To see how we have lost children that need child care services, read the CLASP report:
Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2016 issued by Child Care Aware of America, Inc., the Council’s national association, documents that child care expense often exceeds housing costs. All over the U.S. parents are struggling to pay for child care. Unaffordable child care also negatively impacts the business community.
Read the new report by the Economic Policy Institute documents that child care is beyond the reach of many low-wage earners.