Buffalo News: "Another Voice: Child care for New York's working parents is headed for a cliff"

Date: September 20, 2023

Steve Peraza | September 20, 2023

As a working parent, I would not be employed without the child care providers who care for my kids. Providers constitute “the workforce behind the workforce,” the early education professionals who care for and nurture our babies while we, the parents, earn a living.

Parents in New York should beware, then, because hard times are on the horizon for all of us. The federal funding that has been keeping the New York State child care industry afloat will liquidate within days, and, with it, your access to quality, affordable child care might vanish, too.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal funding stream that underwrites New York State child care subsidies, will expire on Sept. 30. ARPA earmarked $39 billion in child care funding, defraying a wide range of costs that keep child care providers employed and facilities open. The end-of-the-month deadline will close the spigot on federal funds that have been stabilizing the U.S. child care industry.

In New York, ARPA funds contributed approximately $1.8 billion in relief funds to the state’s child care industry, with $1.1 billion in stabilization grant funding and $633 million in discretionary funds to the state’s Child Care and Development Block Grant. These streams constitute the pool of funds that the New York State Office of Children and Family Services uses to award child care relief funds to providers.

As a senior research and policy associate, I study the child care workforce for Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab. A 2022 report showed that the state subsidies, while necessary, were unable to cover the “true cost” for providers to offer quality, affordable child care services. Our early findings for 2023 suggest that the NYS relief funds, underwritten by ARPA, are an effective Band-Aid but not a cauterizer. The child care industry continues to bleed out.

There may be a supply-side shortage on child care workers, but there is no shortage on demand for child care. In fact, New York State subsidizes more low-income families now, which means more working parents need child care. Today we face the cruel irony that working-age folks are finding jobs but, because child care wages are so low, they are finding fewer workers to watch their kids.

Parents, if you want to keep your child care, call your congresspeople and demand that they advocate to extend the ARPA deadline, lest you fall off the same cliff as your child care providers.

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