PRESS RELEASE: Report Shows Dramatic Disparities Still Exist in Access to Child Care

Susan Antos June 02, 2014

For Immediate Release

June 2, 2014

Additional Contact: Susan Antos, 518-935-2845 Saima Akhtar, 518-935-2851

Desperate need remains for substantial increase in state funding and establishment of new program rules to assure adequate and equitable child care subsidies across New York

Despite substantial evidence showing that investing in child care significantly contributes to child well-being and successful outcomes for working parents, as well as successful efforts this year to increase funding for subsidies in the state budget, a new report released today by Empire Justice Center shows that low income working families in New York have continued to lose child care subsidies.

The report, “Still Mending the Patchwork,” is Empire Justice’s fourth report documenting ongoing disparities in subsidized child care programs across New York State.

New York law allows counties or Social Services Districts to provide child care subsidies for families who earn up to 200% of poverty ($39,580 for a family of 3).  Years of federal and state funding cuts, however, have made it much more difficult for counties to support the growing number of low-wage workers.  Since local Social Services Districts in New York still have wide discretion in how they administer their programs, there continues to be a “patchwork” of child care assistance programs across the state.

“Essentially, access to child care assistance in New York remains a function of where a low income family lives.  Each county can choose how to deal with funding cuts, which often is some combination of lowering eligibility thresholds from the 200% of poverty state limit, raising parent copayments to unaffordable levels or closing enrollment altogether.  Which set of cuts a family faces depends on their county of residence,” noted Susan Antos, a Senior Attorney at Empire Justice Center and an author of the report.

“Cutting child care assistance hurts everyone.  Families have to choose less reliable child care or lose income by working reduced hours.  With fewer families in their programs, child care providers face staff layoffs or closure.  And last but not least, children miss out on the rich learning environments provided by quality child care programs,” said Betty Bellino of the Workforce Development Institute.

The report’s findings include:

  • More than one-third of New York’s 58 Social Services Districts have lowered eligibility levels to below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • Several Social Services Districts have waiting lists or have closed the application process.
  • While the family copayment share can range from 10% to 35% of the family’s income above the poverty level, 25 Social Services Districts have family copayments of 35% and only 3 have copayments of 10%.

“A copayment of 35% on any income above the poverty level is an unsustainable burden for low income families. Everyone should pay their own share, but with the many expenses a working family has to cover, this results in too high a fee.  In Monroe County, with a 35% parent fee and a reduced eligibility of 165% of the poverty level, over 50% of eligible children go unserved and no new children have been added to the program for nearly two years.  We will continue to work with our public and community partners to increase funding, and work to reduce barriers like a high copay,” stated Carolyn Lee-Davis of The Children’s Agenda in Rochester, New York.

“Since families are required to make their copayments directly to the program, when families can’t afford the increasingly high copays, the programs are left between a rock and a hard place.  The programs must decide: Can they absorb the loss of income or must they ask the family to stop bringing the child to the program?  Choices like these don’t help anyone,” added Betty Holcomb of the Center for Children’s Initiatives in New York City.

“Thanks to the efforts of Speaker Silver and the Assembly Child Care Work Group as well as Senate Majority Co-Leader Jeff Klein, and the Senate Independent Democratic Caucus, in making  increasing the  state investment in child care subsidies a top priority for both Conferences, we made good progress this year.  Unfortunately, the need is so great that a multi-year plan is required to adequately fund this critical program.  We look forward to continued partnership in all areas of government in 2015 so that we can solve this problem,” said Kristin Brown Lilley, Vice President for Policy and Government Relations at Empire Justice Center.

“The Assembly Child Care Workgroup made significant strides in expanding access to quality, affordable care in New York,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. “Statistics show children who receive high quality care early in life are better prepared for school and adulthood.  We have a responsibility to families in our state to continue bridging the gap between demand for these essential services and their availability.”

Senator Diane Savino, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee, said, “Every working mother and father should be able to go to work and make a decent living for their family, no matter the circumstances.  For far too long, we’ve seen that the explosion in child care costs can hinder this from happening.  I was proud to join with my Senate IDC colleagues, and advocates’ groups including Empire Justice Center, in fighting for increased funding in the recently enacted state budget.  Our results will have a profound impact on not only these children, but families looking for ways to afford to make ends meet.  I look forward to continuing to work with Empire Justice to continue fighting for funding, access and programmatic solutions to provide quality, affordable childcare to all seeking it.”

“It is important for the safety of our children and families to ensure reliable, affordable and accessible childcare is available to every family in New York State, regardless of their income. High co-pays and lack of available subsidies hurt families in a myriad of ways, from loss of wages to inadequate care for their children.  It is up to us in New York State to fix this problem for our families and the children, who are our future,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee.

Among the key recommendations are:

  • Increase funding for child care subsidies to an amount where parents of all low income families can afford to work, look for work or complete their education.
  • Limit child care copayments in all Social Services Districts to no more than 10% of a family’s income in excess of the poverty level for their household size.
  • Provide parents and child care providers with 60 days’ notice when their subsidies are reduced or eliminated.
  • Permit mothers on public assistance with children under the age of one the opportunity to stay at home with their children for one year.  This would shift limited child care dollars away from programs like job search and workfare (which are accompanied by high infant care child care costs) to low income working families when a Social Services District does not have sufficient funding to serve all low income working families under 200% of poverty.

Supporting Documents