Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited the Buffalo State College Child Care Center to meet with local child care providers and discuss the need for critical support for the child care industry. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of all child care providers have had to shut their doors and the industry faces a potential loss of more than 4 million child care slots, which would leave millions of families without access to essential child care services when normal work and life schedules resume. Now, with communities across the state reopening, providers are struggling to implement unclear CDC guidelines.
To support the child care industry through these challenges, Senator Gillibrand, alongside Congressman JoeMorelle, sent a letter to the CDC calling on the organization to work directly with child care stakeholders to inform and implement critical guidance that will keep children, staff, and families safe. Additionally, as the Senate negotiates the next coronavirus relief package, Gillibrand is urging Congress to invest $50 billion in federal funding to stabilize child care providers as they work to safely reopen.
“Our nation was facing a child care crisis even before the pandemic hit – many working families, including nearly two-thirds of Erie County, lived in child care deserts, and those who did have access to child care often struggled to afford it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Now families and providers, are facing unprecedented instability and uncertainty. Child care providers are critical to our economy and we can’t let them face these challenges alone. To get parents back to work and care centers open, the CDC must provide clear, practical guidance and Congress must provide funding to give providers the resources needed to comply with public health guidance and keep everyone safe. These resources are essential to weather this crisis and to lay the foundation for our recovery.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated racial, social, and gender-based inequalities that already existed in our society. Nowhere is that more present than with the child care crisis that we have struggled with for far too long,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “To get our economy back firing on all cylinders, the stress and cost of the child care burden on families and providers must be addressed. It is no longer an individual family’s problem, it’s a problem for our economic recovery, and it’s finally part of the national conversation. In New York, we have increased funding, expanded services and supported families and child care workers during this crisis and beyond. I thank Sen. Gillibrand for joining us in our efforts to fight for more federal funding and support and help to ensure a plan for expanding access to child care in our state and the country in the future.”
“Finding accessible, affordable, high-quality childcare has been a challenge for families across America even in the best of times—and now, COVID-19 has made it even harder,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “As our communities continue to re-open, we must take action to support childcare providers and ensure parents have safe, reliable care for their children. I’m proud to partner with Senator Gillibrand as we fight to strengthen our childcare community and uplift families during these uncertain times.”
“The increasing cost and accessibility of child care, coupled with COVID-related staggered school schedules, is threatening to drive thousands of working women out of the workforce,” said Sheri Scavone, Executive Director, WNY Women’s Foundation. “But with nearly half of these women being primary breadwinners, where does that leave the family? Child care is a public good – and an essential workforce support to re-build our economy and promote racial, economic and gender equity. The US must build an accessible and affordable child care system that supports an equitable and robust society.”
“We cannot look at supporting child care as a “subsidy”. It is truly an investment in economic development and infrastructure. We cannot rebuild our economy without an investment in something as critical as child care. This issue to me is not political. It is very much bipartisan and I believe that we have to all come together to support children and families. In doing so, we support our economic infrastructure and the future of our state. If we aren’t making decisions based on what is best for our youngest citizens, then we are doing a disservice to our entire population. I will always believe every challenge is an opportunity and we have the opportunity now to do the right thing for our current workforce and for our state’s youngest citizens, our future,” said Beth Starks, founder and executive Director of Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, Assistant Professor and Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Jamestown Community College, and member of the Governor’s Child Care Availability Task Force.
“All children deserve to have high-quality care and learning experiences that help them reach their full potential, but unfortunately that is not a reality for many families in our community,” said Kimberly Suminski, CEO of Child Care Resource Network. “Parents simply cannot afford to pay for the child care that they desperately need – in New York state, 52 weeks of infant care costs more than in-state college tuition. Additionally, the overhead costs for child care providers continues to rise, and their costs have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. Without immediate assistance many child care providers are facing the difficult decision to permanently close their doors. Our community simply cannot work without adequate child care. As we move through our phases of reopening, economic recovery will not be possible if parents do not have high quality child care options. On behalf of the child care community in Western New York we are very grateful for the commitment and dedication of legislators like Senator Gillibrand in acknowledging and addressing this important issue.”
“There is no greater investment than our children and their future – and that future begins with affordable and accessible high quality child care. We must do everything we can to stabilize and strengthen the child care system and support struggling parents of babies, infants, and toddlers. Every child deserves to have the best start in life – let’s make sure they get it,” said Rachel Bonsignore, Director of Lift Off WNY.
As New York enters Phase 4, many businesses are reopening and parents are preparing to go back to work. However, with schools operating on part time or remote learning schedules, many parents are scrambling to find care for their students and children aged 0 to 4. The coronavirus outbreak has decimated the child care industry and left many parents without options for daytime care. In Western New York alone nearly half of the child care centers are closed. Those that are able maintain operations have been burdened by confusing CDC guidelines that were developed without input from the child care community and often conflict with state or local guidance. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Joe Morelle are leading a bicameral letter to the CDC expressing concerns over the unclear safety protocols for child care providers. To ensure they have the clear guidelines needed to reopen and operate safely, Gillibrand and Morelle are urging the CDC to work directly with state and local providers to resolve disparities between CDC guidelines and state guidelines, offer additional information about how the use of safety protocols like face shields and social distancing will impact interaction with the children; and make informed recommendations for alternating days, half days or other reduced schedules. Full text of the letter can be found here.
Additionally, to address the child care crisis exacerbated by coronavirus, Gillibrand is renewing her call to create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund, through the Child Care is Essential Act. The fund would provide grant funding to child care providers to stabilize the child care sector and support providers as they safely reopen and operate. Despite the $3.5 billion in funding included in the CARES Act for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to provide childcare for frontline healthcare workers and other essential employees, recent estimates show that it would take at least $9.6 billion per month to keep current child care providers in business and ensure that providers who closed due to the pandemic are able to safely reopen. The Child Care Stabilization Fund would provide grants to child care providers through the CCDBG. Grants would be available to licensed, regulated, or registered child care providers currently open or temporarily closed due to COVID-19. The funding could be used for operating expenses, staff pay, tuition relief for families, and ensuring providers have the resources need to comply with public health guidance.