Lawmakers push governor to release funds for child care

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WBEN) - There is a coordinated push in New York State to have Governor Andrew Cuomo release $80 million in CARES Act funding to child care providers.

In Lancaster, Assemblywomen Monica Wallace and Karen McMahon both called on the funding to help providers. They said the pandemic has only exacerbated the issues in the child care industry.

"Before the pandemic, there was already a shortage of affordable child care and this pandemic has made it even more urgent," Wallace said. "Adequate child care is essential to keeping the economy going. Our essential workers, themselves, rely on the service of child care in order to get to their jobs. Our police officers, our hospital workers, our nursing home attendants, our grocery store clerks, all of them rely on day care in order to go to their own jobs."

New York State received more than $100 billion in CARES Act funding, $162 million of which was intended for child care providers and programs in the state. Lawmakers said the first portion has been spent, though there is still $69 million in funds and $10 million remaining in the essential worker scholarship program.

"We are calling on the governor to immediately compensate child care agencies for the moneys they are due and to allocate CARES Act funding to support the child care industry," McMahon said.

Similar events calling on action by the governor were held throughout the state. The event in Lancaster was held at Imagination Station Child Care and Preschool, where owner Kelly Kronbeck highlighted the various costs her business has incurred due to the pandemic.

"The PPE that we can find is three to four times higher than what we would normally pay," Kronbeck said. "Our masks, for example, that we normally pay $50 a month for is now $200. That's a 300 percent increase of a cost that we have to consume. The same thing with cleaning supplies as we're going through more than double than we have before."

Child care centers continue to have issues with grant funding. Kronbeck said they need grants immediately. She also said they're trying to accommodate all the changes with social distancing and is asking for support from the New York State Office of Child and Family Services, the agency that regulates child care centers like hers.

"We need staff cleared in a timely manner," Kronbeck said. "Staffing is a huge concern and a huge burden on business owners in this industry. We can't even get applicants, let alone hire people. When we do, we need them cleared immediately. We need OCFS to understand our operations and provide waivers to us so we can operate effectively and efficiently."

Kronbeck also called for additional communication from school districts and support from lawmakers.

Wallace said lawmakers have not heard why the governor is holding the money but hopes Thursday's public events can raise enough awareness to get him to act.

“The State has released $95 million of this funding so far and we continue to evaluate the needs of parents and child care providers as we seek to deploy remaining Federal resources, understanding that those needs continue to change as we move through different phases of the pandemic and economic recovery.” –Freeman Klopott, spokesman, New York State Division of the Budget