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Local advocacy group heads to Albany to address child care access crisis facing Upstate NY

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  • Staff Report 

The New York State Senate Committee on Children and Families, chaired by State Senator Jabari Brisport, held a public hearing on Thursday to address the child care crisis in the state. Child care providers, advocates, and researchers from across New York provided testimony on the challenges facing the industry.

Pete Nabozny, Policy Director at The Children’s Agenda in Rochester and co-leader of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, was one of the first to speak at the hearing. “For too many families, child care is a constant challenge to manage. Parents can’t afford to pay more for child care, but providers can’t afford to charge less,” said Nabozny. “This impacts both the capacity of the child care system and the quality of care that families receive.”

According to Child Care Aware of America, the average price of center-based infant care in New York state in 2020 was $16,588 per year, nearly twice the tuition at a public university. Up to 80% of program expenses are for personnel. However, child care providers remain chronically underpaid. The median yearly wage for the industry ranges from $29,889 in the North Country to $35,788 in the Hudson Valley. In Rochester and the Finger Lakes, the median wage is $30,529.

“Nearly half of child care providers themselves receive some form of government assistance to support their own families,” said Nabozny. Further, the undervaluing of early childhood education disproportionately impacts women of color who make up more than half of the child care workforce. Low wages and resulting high turnover in the workforce lead to instability for families and the children who depend on stable, nurturing relationships with their caregivers.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

The pandemic has also had a devastating impact on the child care industry, with widespread layoffs and program closures. A previously released analysis by The Children’s Agenda found that New York had 1,326 fewer programs operating in July 2022 than at the start of the pandemic, representing a loss of 10,554 child care slots. Recent data indicate closures have continued, leaving even fewer slots available.

In her recent State of the State address, Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to invest more public funds in the child care workforce, streamline the application families use to receive assistance with pay for child care, and limit the co-pays families who receive assistance pay. The Children’s Agenda supports these proposals and calls for additional steps such as a more robust child care compensation strategy, expansion of child care assistance to undocumented children and families, and a new method for determining reimbursement levels based on the true cost of high-quality care.