To understand the importance of child care in a community, one could ask a parent, or perhaps a teacher. But perhaps one should ask an employer, too.
“The lack of affordable child care in our community has a direct and negative impact on the ability of our workforce to obtain and keep jobs,” Ames Linen President Johanna Ames wrote Monday in a letter read to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in Cortland. “To advance and grow with a company, one must be consistently present. Many workers worry about availability of safe, reliable childcare and ultimately choose to exit the workforce because they could not obtain such care.”
Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Cortland officials spoke outside of Here We Grow Child Care Center, a child care center run by the YWCA on Miller Street, on the more than $1.8 billion the state will receive for child care center funding as a part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
Schumer said Central New York, including Cortland County, will get a sizable part of that but said the state will determine the specific number through a formula. Qualified home child-care centers will be eligible for funding, too.
He echoed the hardship working parents face that Ames shared in her letter, read by Bob Haight, president and CEO of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce.
“When I grew up, a typical family had two spouses and one worked. So every day, I got home from school and there was my mom baking cookies and asking me what homework I had,” Schumer said. “These days, the overwhelming majority of children are raised in families where there is only a single parent or both parents work.”
“So the needs for childcare have greatly increased, but our society didn’t catch up with it,” he said.
The need for child care was already large in Central New York before the pandemic, but the pandemic made child care even more of a need for parents, Schumer said.
Child care centers were hurt three ways:
- Fewer children were allowed in centers due to health guidelines.
- Fewer children attended child care as more families worked from home.
- Families that lost jobs couldn’t afford child care.
Schumer said the money will help child-care centers stay open, retain or rehire staff and cover losses and expenses they have faced during the pandemic. This includes expenses such as for personal protection equipment.
Of the funding, about $1.1 billion will come from the federal Child Care Stabilization Fund that can be used for centers’ expenses including, rent and mortgage, PPE, sanitation and training and professional development related to health and safety.
The other $705 million will come from the federal Child Care Development Block Grant that can be provided as subsidies to families.
Kelly Tobin, the executive director of the YWCA in Cortland, said the money will be “transformational for the New York state child care system and providers for the first time, in a very long time, are hopeful.”
Tobin added she hoped for a systemic change to the child care sector and long-term commitment and investments for child-care centers so children are prepared for school.