For years, Monroe County's child day care subsidy funding has been a concern of local child advocates. And during the 2014 county budget debates, a proposed $1.3 million cut in the county's contribution to the programs became a major issue.
Child advocates and Democratic legislators pushed for the funding to be restored. But administration officials, along with Republican legislators, dismissed the requests with a pat response: the issue was being debated in the wrong legislature in the wrong city. In short, they told critics of the cut that the state needed to boost its funding for the subsidies.
Well, yesterday Assembly Democrats released a report
on child care subsidies for low-income families and their chief recommendation was to increase funding for the assistance, though they don't recommend any specific amount. The report says that the amount of funding available for the subsidies has remained flat while the need has risen. The report
sums up the result in this passage:
"As a result, many low-income families are denied child care assistance each year. Low-income women are forced into the least expensive child care of last resort in order to maintain gainful employment. These child care arrangements are often unregulated and unstable. For other women, any child care would be cost-prohibitive and so they are forced to leave the workforce in order to care for their child(ren)."
The report also says the state should loosen some restrictions on access to the subsidies and should streamline some of the administrative aspects of the program. It also calls for the state to enact paid family leave.
Assembly Democrats can talk about boosting child care subsidy funding and access all they want, but their proposals aren't going anywhere without the support of Senate Republicans. And it seems that the GOP senators haven't said a whole lot about boosting child day care subsidy funding.
County Executive Maggie Brooks, who's been viewed as an up-and-comer in state Republican politics, has an opportunity to step up if she truly believes that the state needs to provide more funding for child day care subsidies. She could push — publicly, privately, or both — for Republican leaders in the state Senate to work with the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly to put that funding increase in place.
County spokesperson Justin Feasel just sent me an e-mail reminding me that Brooks and Legislature Republicans have submitted a memorializing referral — essentially an official letter to another government body — calling on the Assembly, the state Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo to increase funding for the day care subsidies. (It's the first item in this packet of legislation.
"In the coming year, Monroe County will continue to pursue more child care funding from New York State," Feasel said.