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Capital Region child care advocates and providers celebrate new state funding

Children play at Viking Child Care Center in Troy, NY
Ashley Hupfl
Children play at Viking Child Care Center in Troy, NY

Capital Region child care providers and advocates gathered in Troy Tuesday to celebrate funding for child care services included in the new state budget.

Following an agreement over the $220 billion state budget on April 7th, Governor Kathy Hochul touted “historic” funding for child care:

“I am proud, as a mother who had to leave a job because I could not find child care many years, proud to announce that we're investing over $7 billion over four years into childcare,” the Democrat said in Albany. “Let me repeat that, $7 billion over four years into child care. That's more than double the level of New York's current support for childcare subsidies.”

But like many things in politics, the devil is in the details. The $7 billion investment is a four-year commitment, so future funding will have to be approved and passed during the next three budget cycles. This year’s budget included an increase of about $200 million for child care.

Andrea Smyth of the New York State Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health defended the Democrat’s commitment as historic.

“I think that this budget makes the investment and appropriately distributes the federal funds that came to New York State as a priority for child care. That's what this budget does,” Smyth said. “The fact that the state is saying, ‘Once we see what the response is,’ - and I will tell you, after 30 years of working with families, you are not going to tell them it's time to go back to work unless they're ready to go back to work. So, we have this initial investment, we have (universal pre-kindergarten), which will offset some of the 3-year-old needs, some of the 4-year-old needs in daycare, and then we'll move forward.”

Smyth is also running for state Senate in the 46th district as a Democrat.

In addition to the increase in funding, the budget also includes hiking the child care market rate to include 80 percent of providers to broaden child care options available to subsidy families.

There also will be a second round of provider stabilization grants available, with 75 percent of the grants dedicated to workforce support, such as wage increases.

Speaking at Viking Child Care Center in Troy, Democratic Capital Region Assemblyman John McDonald of the 108th district says the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for affordable child care:

“The truth of the matter is, and it's been more relevant during this pandemic, is that if there's no one to take care of the child, if there's no place to bring the child to have a safe environment, people have no other option than to leave the workforce, or halt or return back to the workforce,” he said.

Heather Henry is a parent and staff member at the Hudson Valley Community College, where the center is located next to the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. She spoke of her experience with the school as her son zoomed around, scooting on a plastic bike.

“This center has made it possible for me to maintain employment throughout the pandemic and all of other challenges that life has thrown at me in the past couple of years. I'm just incredibly grateful,” Henry said. “At some point though, I do wish that we could expand this to give us weekend coverage – just thought I’d throw that out there.”