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Free universal child care in New York: Lawmakers consider state program

Child care should be free. Universal child care would change how fast the U.S. economy recovers. Both of those points were major takeaways from a recent Northeastern University survey. It measured the impact of child care on the economy and post-pandemic recovery.

State Senator Jabari Brisport, who chairs the Committee on Children and Families, is leading an effort for the state to enact universal child care. Access is a major issue, especially for families struggling financially during another surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The child care industry is struggling. In Bristport’s estimation, it’s ‘suffering’. “It is suffering right now. We have seen a lot of child care centers close throughout the pandemic and the ones that are still there, you could say they are on life support,” he told Spectrum News.

The existing subsidy system creates major barriers for families who try to access it. The application process is complex, there’s significant documentation, and variations in rules across the state. These rules mean access varies by specific location.

“A lot of those complications come from, essentially, means testing and categorizing people based on income and saying ‘you pay this much if you make this much,’” Brisport added. “And the intent of that makes sense. The wealthier should pay more.”

It means that poor families wait longer to get service, and in some cases the system becomes so frustrating that they give up. But there’s a solution being proposed.

Making child care free to parents in New York would make a difference

“In my opinion, the best way to move forward is to make [child care] free at the point of service, for all people who partake in it, and have it funded through a more progressive taxation system,” Brisport concluded.

He’ll be in the Finger Lakes on November 17 for a listening tour on the topic.

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