Public Policy and Advocacy Update
The Council’s “Advocacy on the Go” campaign, launched in 2017 with support from the Westchester Community Foundation, helped to secure $1.6 million of new funding for child care subsidy in the 2018 Westchester County budget. A new statewide coalition, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, formed after last year’s child care cut in the NYS budget, brought together new allies in the fight for the 18-19 NYS budget. Although the Trump administration “fat budget” contained cuts to child care, the budget bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in early February included an unprecedented boost to child care. The additional federal child care money anticipated for New York however, eliminated the momentum for an increase in the state budget.
Although the Council’s advocacy efforts over the years on the county level have been successful, we have always wanted to get more parents involved. So we launched “Advocacy on the Go” on the principle that if we could bring advocacy opportunities directly to parents, they would participate. Our first “Calls for Kids” campaign brought Council staff and board members to 20 programs around the county in November, following the release of the proposed 2018 County budget. Many parents made calls of support on the spot at their child care programs, while others called from the convenience of their own homes. Council staff and board members attended and testified at the county budget hearings as well. In the end, the Budget Committee approved a $1.6 million child care add, which was part of the final budget adopted for 2018. DSS used this funding to implement a 3.5% reimbursement rate increase for contracted programs, the first such increase in many years.
With the new County Executive’s interest in child care, the Council convened a special meeting for him with child care and after school leaders, along with members of the Council Board, staff and Business Advisory Council, on February 28th at the YWCA White Plains. Following a tour of the Y’s early childhood center, County Executive Latimer listened intently to the challenges and ideas offered by the audience and repeatedly expressed his desire to assist, along with members of his team. The audience left hopeful and energized. The Council subsequently generated a list of recommendations to strengthen child care derived primarily from that meeting and submitted them to the County Executive. These recommendations are being considered in regular meetings between the Council and the administration.
New York State
Governor Cuomo restored the $7 million cut from child care the prior year. He also maintained funding for QUALITYstarsNY at $5 million and proposed an increase in PreK funding of $25 million. The advocates “ask” for $100 million won considerable support in the Assembly, fueled by interest by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, which had identified child care as a top priority. The Council participated actively in multiple statewide coalitions including the resource and referral network coordinated by the Early Care and Learning Council, Winning Beginning, and the Empire State Campaign for Child Care. Ultimately the efforts to increase state investment stalled when the additional federal child care funding was announced.
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/
The Council’s “Advocacy on the Go” initiative, so useful in Westchester County budget advocacy was also employed for the state budget effort. We visited child care and after school programs all over the county, encouraging parents to make calls to Governor Cuomo and their state elected officials in support of more child care funding. We look forward to a new, even more robust statewide advocacy campaign later this year.
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: 2017 documents that child care expense often exceeds housing costs. New York shows up in several undesirable “top ten” lists, weighing in as the sixth least affordable state for center-based child care for infants, and #1 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: