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Daycare dilemma: More than 60% of New York is considered a “child-care desert”

More than 60% of New York State is considered to be a “child-care desert.” But some state initiatives could make care available to more families as they continue to recover from the pandemic.

Some $70 million in grant funding is being made available to new child-care programs in New York locations that don’t have a sufficient number of open program spaces.

Democratic Assemblymember Anna Kelles, who represents Tompkins and southwest Cortland counties, spoke to what feeds into limited program slots.

“The incomes for child-care providers, the child-care workers, is so low that child-care facilities are having a hard time building back up to capacity as well,” said Kelles. “And that has been a perennial issue.”

According to the governor’s office, applications to apply for the grant funding will open up in mid-April. Kelles is also co-sponsoring a bill that would extend child-care assistance for some New Yorkers even if they no longer meet the income cutoff.

Parts of every region of New York are designated child-care deserts. But Kelles said another issue within the sector is the out-of-pocket cost to families, which she says her bill would address.

“Child care can be anywhere from 25% to 30% of a person’s income,” said Kelles. “That’s very hard for people to surmount without support if you’re technically low income, if not impossible.”

The child-care subsidy legislation is currently in the state Senate Children And Families Committee.

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Nicole Mason – president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research – noted that greater access to child care would also allow more women to participate in the workforce, and fill other gaps as well.

“The pandemic revealed that we still have a long way to go,” said Mason, “in terms of making sure that working women and families have the support they need.”

She said measures like the Build Back Better Act would help increase families’ short- and long-term economic stability, in part by extending the Child Tax Credit.

The U.S. Senate has yet to vote on the federal plan.