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‘Day Care Must be a Priority,’ Parents Can Look Forward to Child Care Subsidy Program Enhancements

Miguel Lopez
miguellopez@minorityreporter.net

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Monroe County executive Adam Bello announced much needed, additional enhancements to the county’s child care subsidy program, including reduced parent fees, quicker access to services, eligibility guarantees and payments to providers when children are absent. Many who were frustrated at the program before are encouraged to re-apply, noting significant improvements with the changes put in place.

“Right here in New York State, the annual cost of care for an infant can be more than the annual cost to attend college at one of our state universities,” Bello said.

Under the plan, families will receive a one-year guarantee of child care with the average family saving almost $900 annually and, starting February 1st, the county will pay the parents’ childcare provider for 80 absences each year, the maximum allowed under New York State law and four times more than the required amount. Monroe County will also be decreasing the parent fee down to 1%, the lowest amount allowed under state law. The County projects that this will lead to over $1.7 million in savings for working parents in the day care program in 2022.

Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda (TCA) , a local non-profit anti-poverty group that focuses on tackling the challenges of child poverty said these changes in Monroe County will make child-care assistance more flexible and affordable, and they keep struggling providers, many of which are small, woman owned businesses on razor thin margins, open to serve families.

“Parents are constantly telling The Children’s Agenda about their struggles to afford quality care, having to choose between paying for child care or a job or school or other necessities,” he said. TCA just recently released the Barriers to Care: Improving Access to New York State’s Child Care Assistance Program report, that mapped how information surrounding child care assistance is provided by counties in New York state, they also revealed gaps and variations from county to county that leave some families underserved based on where they may live.

Here is a complete list of the changes/enhancements:

  • While the state Office of Children and Family Services requires all counties to cover the cost of at least 24 absences from day care each year, County Executive Bello has opted to cover up to 80 such absences, the maximum number allowable by law. This decision ensures parents can keep their child enrolled in their chosen program while helping stabilize revenues for child care providers. Effective Jan 1. 2022.
  • Effective Feb. 1, 2022, Monroe County will decrease the parent fee for subsidized child care to 1%, the lowest allowed under state law. For working parents in the subsidized day care program, this translates to more than $1.7 million in out-of-pocket savings just this year. More than 1,800 families will see a reduction in out of pocket costs, with an average annual savings of $939.
  • In partnership with the Child Care Council, the county has enhanced the Department of Social Services’ Certificate of Eligibility program that gives parents and guardians faster access to child care services. Parents can show this certificate to a provider of their choice, verifying eligibility for child care subsidies so they are immediately able to begin care in order to start or keep their employment. Effective Jan. 7, 2022.
  • Effective retroactively to December 1, 2021, families are guaranteed one year of care, with limited exceptions; children turning 13 during a given year will be able to remain in the subsidized care program through the end of the authorization period. In addition, the “break in need” period – the time a parent remains eligible for subsidies while not utilizing the program due to job loss or other circumstance – has been increased to 3 months; and household income will be allowed to increase up to 85% of state median income (about $89,226 for a family of four) during the one-year guarantee without affecting eligibility.

“Typically for Rochester, parents spend an average of almost $9,000 per year for childcare – that’s almost $750 a month,” said Marx. “Parents can’t work when they don’t have childcare.”

Bello said for too many families, access and cost of child care can be a roadblock to the path of career success. He said the county wants to ensure that no parent ever has to forego a greater opportunity because there is a lack of affordable childcare. “These common sense changes make it easier for parents to access and afford the child care they need to work and provide for their families or pursue educational opportunities.”

Some changes have been effective as of February 1. The program eligibility is based on income requirements.

“It’s more expensive to have your infant child in daycare than it is to send your teenager to college. That is an incredible burden on parents,” Bello said.

“Day care must be a priority for our entire community.”

Those interested in applying for the child care subsidy program, have questions or concerns, or seek further information, call 585-753-6960 or go to the Monroe County website at www.monroecounty.gov/hs-daycare.