Expanding child care subsidies would lift 84,000 New Yorkers out of poverty, report says

The findings, published by anti-poverty nonprofit Robin Hood and Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy, examined the impact of the Early Learning Child Care Act, which would institute a tax on salaries to fund childcare subsidies for families with children under 3. old.

The city under de Blasio has invested heavily in expanding free pre-kindergarten and 3-k, major gaps in the system remain for families needing infant and toddler care .

A bill that would expand eligibility for in-state child care subsidies, currently before the legislature, has the potential to lift some 84,000 New Yorkers out of poverty and increase income of tens of thousands of families, according to a recently published analysis.

The findings, published by anti-poverty nonprofit Robin Hood and Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy, examined the impact of the Early Learning Child Care Act, which would institute a tax on salaries to fund childcare subsidies for families with children under 3. old.

The bill, introduced in December by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Sarah Clark, would expand eligibility for fully subsidized child care to families earning up to 400% of the income threshold. federal poverty, or $106,000 a year for a household of four. . High-income families would also be eligible for subsidized care, paying sliding scale fees but never more than 7% of their income, according to the legislation.

This is a big difference from the current reality of city childcare, where the cost of babysitting is one-third of the annual salary of a single parent working full-time on salary. minimum. Current New York City child care subsidies are also only available to households earning up to 200% of the poverty line, or $53,000 for a family of four, according to a report from the Comptroller’s Office.

If the state implemented the bill’s changes, it would reduce New York’s poverty rate by 2.7% and child poverty by 12%, according to analysis by Robin Hood and Columbia. This would increase the income of 1.2 million families across the state, including 906,000 families with children under age 3 who would see their average salary increase by $2,100 per year.

It would also mean higher wages for child care workers themselves, an industry largely run by women that experts say has long suffered from low wages, fueling a provider shortage across the state. . The bill would create a base salary of $45,000 per year for child care providers, which Columbia/Robin Hood analysis suggests would benefit 277,000 workers who would see their average income increase by 21%.

Supporters say greater investment in child care would also help answer new Mayor Eric Adams’ call for more New Yorkers return to work in physical offices after nearly two years of pandemic. The bill would allow 76,000 single parents or secondary earners to re-enter the workforce, according to the analysis.

“[I]Investing in child care would jump-start our economic recovery and lift tens of thousands of our neighbors out of poverty. In other words, it’s an investment in our future,” Robin Hood CEO Richard R. Buery, Jr. said in a statement.

The Early Learning Child Care Act is one of two pieces of state legislation being considered this session that aims to overhaul New York’s child care system, which advocates say was in crisis long before the pandemic, with the cost of care often unaffordable even for middle- to high-income families and a citywide shortage of providers (half of all community districts in the city are labeled as “infant care deserts” , according to a 2019 comptroller report).

While former mayor Bill de Blasio has invested heavily in establishing free universal pre-k and 3-k, major gaps in the system remain, especially for families with children under 3 years old and parents who work nights or weekends.

“This program is good until 3 p.m. and ends in June. There really aren’t many options for extended care hours,” said Nora Moran, director of policy and advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses. The pandemic has further strained the industry, which serves a population of children still too young to be vaccinated. “The last few years have not been easy for child care providers, between openings, center closings, registrations multiplying.”

Moran said the Ramos/Clark bill would be a positive step forward, as would another bill introduced by State Senator Jabari Brisport, which would establish a state task force to develop and implement implement a free and universal childcare system, to be introduced gradually. four years. The Universal Child Care Act would also seek to remove means testing, rules that currently require families to work a certain number of hours to qualify for subsidies.

Brisport and dozens of other lawmakers are calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to invest $5 billion in this year’s budget to “enable New York to take critical steps toward achieving universal child care.”

Officials and other child protection advocates say they are disappointed with Hochul’s executive budget unveiled last month, saying it does not go far enough to address the scale of the crisis. The governor has proposed expanding eligibility for state child care subsidies, raising the income threshold from families earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level to those earning up to 300 %, deployed over three years.

“This is not a good start,” the coalition of lawmakers said in a statement. Moran criticized the phased rollout, saying eligibility extensions should happen immediately. “Why wait? There are families who currently don’t have access to care because they earn a few dollars above the income limit,” she said.

Hochul’s proposal would also invest $75 million in federal stimulus funds to support the child care workforce and boost worker wages (a quarter of child care workers in New York live in poverty, according to the comptroller’s report). Moran said the investment is “definitely not enough,” as lawmakers call on the state to create a billion-dollar labor compensation program for the industry.

“New York could tap into all of the $200 million federal child care stabilization fund it currently has to support that fund in the near term while the state pursues a long-term strategy to increase wages of childcare staff,” the lawmaker says. noted.

Lawyers say Mayor Eric Adams’ draft budget also didn’t do enough to address the child care crisis. The mayor — who during the campaign pledged to create a city-funded child care program — included $25 million in his spending plan for a tax abatement for homeowners who renovate their buildings in child care, and an additional $25 million to cover tax credits for companies that provide free or subsidized child care to workers.

But defenders say they would have liked to see a more direct investment in increasing capacity.

“The budget fails to address the shortage of affordable infant and toddler care and the lack of extended day/extended year spaces in 3K and UPK programs, to expand services to young people throughout the year for school-aged children or investing in summer camps,” Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizens Committee for Children (a funder of City Limits) said in a statement.

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