Help for youngster care eligibility set to increase in New York

New York is set to spend $7 billion in the coming years to boost child care programs across the state and expand eligibility to more families for support.

The money, part of the $220 billion state budget agreeement finalized last weekend, will also donate an additional $375 million for school districts outside New York City to expand pre-kindergarten programs.

The child care funding and pre-K spending were major pushes by New York officials in this year’s budget to increase support for programs following two years of the COVID pandemic in which families struggled to care for kids and have parents or guardians return to work.

More families will be eligible for support as well, with qualifying families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level.

At the same time, lawmakers pointed to the funding for having the potential of curtailing Adverse Childhood Experiences, which can have long-term effects.

“When we invest in our families, we’re investing in our communities write large,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, the chair of the Committee on Children and Families. “For all of us who care about public safety, we need investments like this to truly address long term causes of poverty and crime. Every child that grows up without adequate education, nutrition, safe housing or health care is at exponentially higher risk of experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauma that too often lead to involvement in our criminal justice system down the line.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on Monday announced $70 million in federal grant funding is available for newly licensed, registered or permitted child care programs in areas of the state that do not have enough slots for enrollment.

The money is meant to address so-called “child care deserts” in New York and part of a broader $100 million program available under federal pandemic aid to the state.

“Bolstering child care has been a tenet of my administration since day one,” Hochul said. “All parents deserve access to high-quality child care regardless of where they live, and this funding will help address critical child care shortages in underserved areas —supporting parents as they pursue an education, thrive in the workforce, and contribute to New York State’s economic rebirth.”

Advocates at the Alliance for Quality Education, however, had hoped the budget would have included measures guaranteeing the money to spend over the next five years.

“We hope Gov. Hochul’s announcement on Friday was a real commitment to invest state funds in order to address the urgent child care crisis,” said Jasmine Gripper, the group’s executive director. “We look forward to seeing the governor uphold her commitment to New York’s families and child care educators.”

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