Morelle proposes childcare funding legislation as NY faces $2B loss in childcare funding

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Childcare across New York may see some changes this fall, as $24 billion in federal funding is set to expire. The money was given out to the childcare industry during the pandemic, as a means of keeping businesses afloat when kids – like their parents – were stuck at home.

On September 30, those funds will expire, leaving many programs and people searching for alternatives. According to 25th district representative Joe Morelle, that could result in 250,000 children without childcare in New York State alone. He expects 5,000 programs – that were relying on vouchers, used funding to subsidies their costs, or otherwise benefitted – to be affected.

For parents, Morelle said that there will be $8 million in lost earnings from parents, mostly mothers, who may find it more financially feasible to quit their jobs instead of paying for childcare.

Keegan Fisher is a working mom of two who was faced with that choice. When she tried to find childcare for her eldest daughter, Fiona, she said she may as well have been hunting for a unicorn.

“I couldn’t find part-time care, and even if I found a center that offered part-time care they had a 12-18 month wait list, and if a sibling was born to a child already in the center, I got bumped,” she said.

She and her husband are luckily self-employed, so Fisher was able to incorporate taking her kids to work with her. But for many families that she knows –

“They’re paying more for their childcare than they do for their mortgage,” she said. “Some of them would love to have a second, but the thought of throwing them into childcare is more than they can handle, so they don’t.”

On the daycare side of things, owners say they continue to face extreme staffing shortages. Michelle Ellis, Executive Director of Care-a-Lot Daycare, says that her team has maintained lengthy waitlists at all eight of their locations, some hitting as many as 100 families, over the past few years.

These kinds of issues plague all daycares in New York, according to Pete Nabozny with childrens’ advocacy group The Children’s Agenda.

“And that’s only going to get worse as this federal funding ends,” Nabozney said.

Congressman Morelle is proposing legislation to keep the childcare industry propped up. It includes $12.4 billion budgeted for childcare in the 2024 fiscal year, which starts October 1.

“We should not make it in this country that you have to make the choice between being a stay at home mom or dad, or working,” Morelle said. “You should be able to do both.”

He also proposed the Childcare for Working Families Act. This program caps childcare costs to make them more affordable for families making up to 150% of the median household income in New York. That’s currently about $112,500. Under the act, parents making up to 75% of the median would pay nothing for childcare. Parents between 75% and 150% of that median would have their care costs capped at 7% of their income.

The act also works to increase compensation for childcare workers to incentivize more employees to the industry. This is something that Nabozny, the early childhood policy director for the Children’s Agenda, says is essential for both kids and parents.

“If you have a classroom that’s closed,” Nabozny said. “If you have a toddler classroom that normally serves, ten children let’s say – Well, that’s ten parents who aren’t able to get to work that day.”

Both the act and the budget still have to go through the house, the senate, and the president. If neither are passed, Nabozny said that New York State will lose roughly $2 billion currently holding up the childcare system.