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Dutchess County Offers Scholarship For Childcare As Schools Return To Session

Group of young children
Courtesy of Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam, Inc.
Group of young children

With so many K-12 school districts set to open after Labor Day, some county executives are trying to help figure out the childcare conundrum. Dutchess County has come up with a childcare scholarship.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says the county is offering more than $197,000 for a COVID-19 Childcare Relief Scholarship to benefit eligible families.

“This daycare scholarship won’t solve every problem, but our goal was to leverage federal dollars to assist parents in making accommodation for this very unprecedented circumstance. How can parents provide for their kids who would, may ordinarily be off to school, may have daycare options that are no longer available to them while also getting off to work and living their lives, and creating an environment where that stress level and, to some degree, trauma is not so weighty and so impactful that it negatively impacts families,” Molinaro says. “This scholarship is one tool that we’re making available to assist.”

He says Dutchess is leveraging money from the CARES Act through the Community Development Block Grant program. Household income must not exceed 80 percent of the county’s median income limits for families to be eligible. Families must live in Dutchess County, excluding the City of Poughkeepsie, as the city received its own CARES Act funding. The childcare facility must be a regulated childcare facility in Dutchess County. And children with special needs will receive preference.

Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan says he’s been hearing from parents about being up against the wall with child care versus going to work.

“So all nine of the districts in Ulster County are going to delay their in-person opening for students, but many teachers and staff are going back. So now, in addition to all the parents that already were facing childcare challenges, you have another few thousand in that category,” Ryan says. “So the biggest need we’re hearing is help with taking care of kids and making sure they can continue to be educated from home while parents have to work. And that’s not something that we’ve ever had direct role in as a county and, in many cases, it ends up usually falling on families and parents. So we’re trying figure out creative solutions there and to find funding, but it really is an unprecedented challenge. Anybody that has ideas and thoughts, we would love to work with you and figure out, it’s just something that we’ve never really faced before and we’re doing our best on.”

Childcare subsidies are available through the Ulster County Department of Social Services. Plus, The Boys and Girls Club of Ulster County and YMCA offer child care. Molinaro says just a few school districts in his county will operate on a hybrid model.

“Most of our school districts have decided to postpone in-person education until October. I will tell you what I told school superintendents — I don’t know what happens in October that would suddenly make people feel better,” says Molinaro. “It would seem to us the psychology of flu season, allergies and coronavirus would likely make it less likely schools will reopen in October.”

Meantime, Molinaro says he’ll be announcing next week the launch of a microenterprise grant program.

“We’re not asking them to have to pay them back. It might be good enough for a month or two of rent or just some minor enhancements for PPE [personal protective equipment],” Molinaro says. “The businesses that have been challenged the most, frankly, are the smallest.”

For the Childcare Relief Scholarship, Dutchess County is partnering with the Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam to implement the program.

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