Helping People….Changing Lives

Several members of the Chautauqua Child Care Council of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., met virtually with New York State Senator George Borrello on Tuesday, February 16, along with other early childhood advocates.

A number of “Asks” were shared with Senator Borrello by Voretta Rhodes of the WNY Child Care Action Team.  Our request to State lawmakers:

  1. 1. Make no cuts to 2020 funding for child care in 2021
  2. 2.    Provide $ 370 million in subsidy funding and keep the subsidy income guidelines to 85% of the state median income.
  3. 3.    Commit to eliminating expulsions and suspensions in child care and pre-K
  4. 4.    Invest $100 million to increase child care salaries to a fair and equitable wage in order to sustain quality.

Beth Starks, Assistant Professor at Jamestown Community College, led the meeting.  She began by noting that many more New York State children are living in poverty now and that women have disproportionately been forced out of the workforce during the pandemic.  She stated also that only a portion of the funding for child care received from the federal government has been distributed by New York State.  In addition, because of government regulations, few child care businesses could take advantage of certain tax incentives.  She pointed out that tax incentives at the Federal level are not coupled with New York State tax incentives so that child care businesses are not receiving the full benefit they could be.

Susan Marker, Director of the Chautauqua Child Care Council, stated that several family child care providers were closed due to COVID19.  Legally-exempt providers have dropped from just over 400 in the previous years to approximately 200 currently.  Ms. Marker stated that while essential workers received child care scholarships, many providers received no financial assistance.  Some child care providers did manage to stay open; however, many struggled especially to serve essential and first responder workers.

Ms. Marker shared a story of one provider whose program was full prior to the pandemic.  That provider then had only one child in care for quite some time.  The provider struggled financially during that time but has since managed to fill her program with children again.  Another issue Ms. Marker shared was that providers who received CARES grants – some for as much as $22,000 – received 1099 forms but were not aware that they would have to declare the grants as income.  Senator Borrello suggested that more clarification should be sought and questioned whether providers should have received the 1099 forms.

Jodi Schwegler, Director of Community Impact at Child Care Resource Network in Erie County, expressed concern that providers are hearing about CARES 4 grants, but they don’t want to apply because the process is cumbersome.  When providers don’t apply for grants, it inadvertently sends the message to policymakers that they don’t need help, but they absolutely do need the assistance.  In addition to applications being difficult to complete, many grants are reimbursable.  Providers may not be able to purchase items and wait for reimbursement.

CACFP Specialist, Chris Wigren, shared that Child Care Resource and Referral  (CCR&R) agencies offer free services to parents who need quality child care in order to go to work. She noted that lack of child care, however, can result in parents missing work which means businesses lose over $4.4 billion annually.  Ms. Wigren asked the Senator for his thoughts on what can be done on the community level and the government level to ensure that businesses are aware of these services and how vital these services are.

Senator Borrello responded that the challenge is to get the word out about CCR&R services and to focus on bringing businesses together such as with rounds tables.  He believes that advocacy has been helpful in putting a light on child care issues according to the Senator.  The Senator also noted that federal representatives also need to put pressure on New York State’s Governor to release funds from the federal government that have been allocated for child care.  He stated that there should be transparency in regards to funds received from the federal government and how they are distributed on the state level.

Ms. Starks made one final request and asked the Senator to make child care a part of packages for small businesses.  Doing so would send a powerful message to businesses that early care is critical to their success.   The Senator agreed that child care is a key to economic development.

If you are a parent and need child care or have questions about child care, please contact the Chautauqua Child Care Council of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., at 800-424-4532 or chautauquaopportunities.com.  If you are interested in starting a child care business, please call the Council at 716-661-9430 ext. 2289 or 2290.