The end of the 2017 Legislative Session was disappointing for those of us hoping to see increased supports for parents and providers in the child care subsidy system.
Legislative Response to Cuts in Child Care Funding
One bill [A.7726-A (Jaffee)/S.1455 (Avella)], which was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate, was a direct response to a budget cut of $7 million to child care subsidies. Championed by the Legislative Women’s Caucus, the bill would establish a task force that would report on
- the percentage of the eligible population in New York State that is receiving a child care subsidy;
- the cost of care for families eligible for, but not receiving, a child care subsidy;
- the availability of child care for non-traditional work hours;
- whether parents are voluntarily leaving the workforce due to lack of affordable or accessible child care, and the demographic information of such parents;
- whether employers have identified lack of child care as a reason for a shortage of a qualified workforce;
- the impact of child care, or lack thereof, on economic development throughout the state;
- varying levels of quality of care throughout the state; and ways to address concerns identified by the task force.
The task force will be required to issue annual reports no later than December 1 of each year, starting this year. See Empire Justice Center memo of support. The bill has not yet been sent to the Governor for signature.
Important Legislation that Never Made it to the Floor for a Vote
There were four very important bills advanced in both houses that would have made substantive improvements in the child care subsidy system for both parents and providers that failed to make it to the floor for a vote:
- A.4829 (Titus)/S.1455 (Avella) would require social services districts that did not have enough child care subsidy funding to serve all eligible families to offer public assistance recipients the option to be exempt from work rules for 12 months. This initiative would have freed up $9 million for subsidies for working families. In light of the $7 million cut in subsidies, it is very unfortunate that there was not sufficient support for this legislation, which the Assembly Majority included in their budget proposal. See Empire Justice Center memo of support.
- A318-A (Jaffee)/S3977-A (Savino) would require local districts to authorize child care for working parents with children who are not in school and under the age of six, when such parents need child care to sleep because they work the night shift. See Empire Justice Center memo of support.
- A.5836 (Walker)/S.6286 (Avella) would require social services districts to maintain waiting lists of all families who are eligible for child care assistance, and to provide an annual report to the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) commencing October 15, 2019, which will detail the length of time that eligible families remain on the waiting list before they receive child care services, by county. The bill would have also required social services districts to provide an annual monthly report detailing by poverty percentages the income levels of all families that apply for and receive child care subsidies, as well as the income levels of those families that are denied child care services. See Empire Justice Center memo of support.
- A.6974 (Jaffee)/S.5488 (Avella) would require all social services districts to reimburse child care providers for at least 6, but no more than 24, absences in a 12 month period (this is currently a county option). The recent amendments to the Federal Child Care Development Block Grant require states to develop absence policies, and we can expect to see a proposal from the Office of Children and Family Services next Spring.
Important Legislation that Passed the Assembly, but not the Senate
One bill, which would have helped determine the actual cost of providing quality child care, passed the Assembly, but not the Senate. A290 (Jaffee)/S.1455 (Avella) would require the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to utilize a cost estimation model when determining the actual cost that child care providers incur when providing child care, and would have required an annual report regarding the same.
Empire Justice Center advocates are already working with colleagues across the state to address the funding cuts in next year’s budget. We will also work to support the legislation listed above, which, taken together, would represent a leap forward in New York State’s child care system.