Childrens drawing of happy family and house

To Build a State of Opportunity for Working Families, New York Must Invest in Child Care

 This post was written by Gregory Brender,Co-Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses and steering committee member of Winning Beginning NY as part of our PowHer the Vote 2017 campaign.

New York State’s Economic Development Corporation declared the Empire State to be a State of Opportunity and has made investments to support innovative industries across the State ranging from high-tech to agribusiness and including diverse growth areas such as craft beverage and television and film.  To truly be a State of Opportunity for New York’s working families and especially working mothers, New York must invest in child care.  

A 2017 study by Child Care Aware identified New York State as the second most expensive State in the nation for a family to afford child care and estimated that a single parent would have to spend 45% of her or his income on child care. Yet, last year’s State budget cut funding for child care by $7 million.  This cut combined with years of underfunding has made it harder for low-income working families to find safe, nurturing and educational care for their pre-school aged children.  In several counties in New York, it is impossible for a low-income working parent to find any subsidized child care if they make slightly over the federal poverty line- $16,240 per year for a single parent with one child.

When parents can’t find child care, they cannot go to work.  In 2013, Campaign for Children surveyed 5,700 parents of children in child care and after-school programs in New York City whose programs were at risk of closure.  Of those parents surveyed, 95% said that they relied on their child care arrangements to keep their job including one New York State employee in the Bronx who said simply “Without child care, I have no job.”  

In its next budget, New York State must do better for its working families and ultimately for its economy.  Recently, Winning Beginning NY, New York State’s Early Care and Learning Coalition, presented a proposal to State policymakers to use economic development funds to expand access to quality child care for low-income families in order to remove barriers to broad workforce participation, support worker productivity, and bolster the local child care industry.

By investing in child care, New York State is investing in its working families, creating jobs in early childhood education and supporting its communities.  Child care programs cannot be exported out of State.  We must support our  working families, educate and train a child care workforce and increase affordable quality child caring programs  throughout our state.

And this investment is especially important for women in New York.  Many economic development proposals focus heavily on fields women are underrepresented such as construction where women make up only 8.9% of the workforce the or manufacturing where women make up 27% of the workforce, according to studies by the US  Bureau of Labor Statistics.  But child care is the 12th most predominant occupation for women in the United States according to the US Census Bureau as  97% of the child care workforce are female.  

It is time for New York State to build its economy for New York’s working families.  This must start by investing in child care.  Over the next several months, Winning Beginning and other groups throughout the State will organize  support for additional funding online and in communities throughout the State and call for greater investment in  child care.  We encourage you to check for updates and advocacy actions and hope you will join us in fighting for child care and New York’s working families.