Public Policy and Advocacy Update
The Council’s “Advocacy on the Go” campaign, funded by the Westchester Community Foundation, helped to secure over $2 million of additional funding for child care subsidy in the 2019 Westchester County budget. County Executive George Latimer’s budget included $1.6 million more than was projected to be spent this year and the Board of Legislators added another $418,000. A historic increase in the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant, thanks to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, delivered nearly $96 million of additional child care funding to New York. Member of the NYS Assembly fought for a substantial child care increase in the 2018-1029 budget but this effort lost momentum following the notification of the new federal dollars.
To increase the voices in support of child care investment and smart policies, particularly those of parents, the Council rolled out its new and improved “Advocacy on the Go” model for the 2019 County budget season. Thanks to a grant from the Westchester Community Foundation, we were able to expand and improve our materials and reach more parents. And thanks to Council staff and Board members, we spoke with parents at 14 programs. We urged them to call County elected officials and we also collected nearly 350 post cards which we hand-delivered to the County Executive and members of the Board of Legislators (BOL). One element that we do not have control of, the weather, intervened, causing the postponement of 5 program visits. Though we managed to reschedule all of them, that effort cut into our ability to do more. Our Voter Voice campaign, which ran at the same time, resulted in 73 individuals sending over 150 electronic letters to County officials. We were active at all 3 County Budget hearings, speaking to parents and providing the BOL with verbal and written testimony.
The results: $2 million more for child care in 2019, funding another subsidy reimbursement increase and some new Title XX child care slots for working families over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. This was achieved despite the very, very tough financial environment for the County, evidence of the County Executive and BOL’s commitment to child care and the power of parents’ voices.
Our thanks again to the Westchester Community Foundation for believing in advocacy, to all the Council staff and Board members who participated and to the leaders and parents of the following programs who stepped up for children:
- Country Children’s Center
- Happy Corner Day Care
- Harrison Children’s Center
- Lois Bronz Children’s Center
- Mount Kisco Child Care Center
- New Rochelle Day Nursery
- Ossining Children’s Center (3 locations)
- Queens Daughters Day Care Center
- Teaching Little Ones Christ
- Y-COP of Mount Vernon
- YMCA of White Plains and Central Westchester
- YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester
New York State
It’s early days in the NYS budget season but Governor Cuomo’s new budget includes “a series of actions to increase access to reliable, affordable child care for all New Yorkers” including:
- Ensure Access to High Quality Child Care: “In an effort to ensure that households in receipt of a child care subsidy are afforded continued access to high quality child care, Governor Cuomo will invest an additional $26 million to increase the value of the subsidy. This increase will help low-income families access affordable, regulated child care.“
- Invest in Regional Strategies: “As the drivers of New York State’s economic strategic planning, Governor Cuomo tasks the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to include child care as a priority in their 2019 Strategic Plans. The 2019 REDC Guidebook will require each region to consider the child care needs of the region and the important impact access to affordable child care can have on the region’s economy and to develop a regionally-specific strategy to increase access to quality, affordable child care.”
- Launch Child Care Worker Scholarship: “Recruitment and retention of child care employees is essential to maintaining access to reliable child care…To ensure that New York State attracts and retains qualified employees to work in child care center state-licensed child care facilities, Governor Cuomo will launch a child care worker scholarship to cover tuition at SUNY or CUNY schools for part-time students who work at least 20 hours a week in state- licensed child care facility. The ability to achieve higher education while working part-time serves as a win for families and teachers, and helps to create a stable workforce.”
- Establish Common Application for Child Care: “… Governor Cuomo will direct the Office of Children and Family Services to work with the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies to develop the first common application for child care in the country, easing the burden of filing multiple applications as families seek child care for their children. OCFS will work to ensure that this application is used across the state. “
The Governor is also proposing an additional $15 million to expand universal pre-kindergarten, with a focus on the participation of homeless students and students with disabilities. School districts creating slots under this expansion would be expected to actively maximize partnerships with community-based pre-kindergarten providers.
The Governor’s budget also includes an increase to expand after school programs, but it is not yet clear if Westchester is considered an eligible area.
While it is exciting to see child care figure more prominently in the Governor’s budget, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care has called for new child care investments of over $100 million, so there is plenty of opportunity for the NYS Assembly and Senate to move child care further ahead! To see the Empire State Campaign for Child Care 2019-2020 Executive Budget Request, click here.
Please sign up for the campaign here.
The coalitions all understand that advocacy is a year round effort and have continued planning throughout the year to secure new state investments in 2019. We urge everyone to join the Empire State Campaign, simply click here: https://www.empirestatechildcare.org/
Governor Cuomo proposes an additional $15 million to expand universal pre-kindergarten, including a focus on the participation of homeless students and students with disabilities. In order to ensure stability throughout the entire early childhood system, school districts creating slots under this expansion must work to actively maximize partnerships with community-based pre-kindergarten providers. This investment will continue to advance the goal of universal prekindergarten across New York to help support the earliest learners.
Child care subsidy got a huge boost in the budget bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in early February with an historic increase, basically doubling discretionary funding for child care. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) estimated that after funding the reauthorization costs, the funding would allow another 230,000 children across the nation to receive a child care subsidy. Initially New York was expected to receive $106 mil of new funding but that was later lowered to $96 million. The House Appropriations Committee recently recommended maintaining this increase in the next federal budget.
With child care costs burdening families all over the nation, this significant lift at the federal level was most welcome. Child Care Aware of America’s latest report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2018 documents that child care expense often exceeds housing costs. New York shows up in several undesirable “top ten” lists, weighing in as the 7th least affordable state for center-based child care for infants, the 5th least affordable for center-based toddler care, the 5th least affordable for center-based care for four year olds. To see how the whole country is doing, and where New York stacks up, read the full report below: