Consumer News: Spike in childcare costs during the pandemic further burdens families

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — In consumer news, we’re taking a look at one of the major costs having kids, childcare. New research by Lending Tree indicates that COVID-19 has even affected what we pay for childcare.

In Monroe County, it really adds insult to injury. Last year, News10NBC brought you the results of a study released by the Children’s Agenda. It found that in Rochester in 2020, for every 10 infants or toddlers in the city, there was only one available childcare spot. In Monroe County, there were three available spots for every ten young children.

Making matters worse, the Lending Tree study finds that during this pandemic, the average cost of childcare in New York State has increased 31%, from just $16,069 annually before the pandemic to $21,000 now.

So let’s take a look at how that affects family budgets already bulging from the strain of the pandemic. According to US Census data, the average household income in Monroe County is just $60,075.

Our average housing cost is $151,800. That’s about 40% of the family income which is more than recommended 30%. So the average annual cost of childcare of $21,000 is 35% of the average family income in Monroe County. That’s almost as much as the monthly mortgage.

Erika Giovanetti with Lending Tree explained why she believes the childcare costs have risen so rapidly during the pandemic.

“It’s a little bit of increased demand and a little bit of decreased availability,” she said. “For a lot of parents who work full-time, and can’t take care of their children who may be learning remotely, that kind of adds an increased demand… Also thinking about the childcare centers themselves, they may be working at decreased capacity because of social distancing guidelines."

So again, the laws of supply and demand rule the day. But there’s good news for families. While $21,000 annually is the average cost of childcare in the state, it doesn’t have to be the price you pay.

New Yorkers with a household income of up to $95,123 for a family of six can get subsidies for care. That plan is called the Childcare Dollars Program and is administered by the Workforce Development Institute. WDI also administers the Childcare Funding Project. The Childcare Funding Project is funded by the state and administrated by the county. On that website, essential workers should consider applying for a childcare scholarship.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made $30 million available in April of 2020. And the Low Income Family Assistance Program is available for families at or below 200% of the poverty level. That means a family of six could qualify with a household income of $69,180.