As kids return to school in Ulster County, albeit remotely, hundreds of eligible families could now turn to the county to help relieve the financial burden of child care.
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced the Project Resilience Child Care Initiative on Tuesday, the day most kids returned to K-12 schools in the county.
“You now have many families that didn’t need child care before now needing some way, in the midst of so much other financial pressure, to figure out how am I now going to pay to make sure that my child is safe and healthy and taken care of and able to learn,” Ryan says.
The child care initiative is the next phase of the county’s Project Resilience, which launched in March to help support residents impacted by COVID-19. Ryan says funding for expanded child care comes from Project Resilience.
“We are going to leverage the same philanthropic funds. We have some funds left still that we’ve been using for food, but we recognize that child care is a critical need as well,” says Ryan. “So we’re shifting some of those funds and setting up, at least initially, a $200,000 fund specifically for a Project Resilience Child Care Initiative. And what this really let us do is, we have some programs to support those with need, getting their kids in child care, but this funding will let us significantly expand who qualifies.”
Right now, those at or below 200 percent of the poverty level are able to have 75 percent of their child care expenses funded by the Ulster County Department of Social Services. Through the new initiative, the eligibility requirement is being raised to 300 percent, with families between 200 percent and 300 percent eligible to have half of their child-care costs covered over the next six weeks. So the funding could go toward child care at state-regulated facilities.
“The second category is if you have children in what are called school-aged programs, so think YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, CCE in the City of Kingston and other programs like that. Usually, those programs only ran before school and after school," says Ryan. "They are now going to run throughout the day, and they’re opening up their slots, but we know that people may not be able to afford that, so we’re also going to come in and offer essentially scholarships for those programs.”
The Project Resilience Child Care Initiative is made possible through partnership with a number of organizations, including Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, United Way of Ulster County, Family of Woodstock, SUNY Ulster and many more. Separately, Ryan says the county is ready with its Rapid Response plan for schools if and when students return in person. Plus, he says:
“As everyone is getting reopened, we want to make sure that they have adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] so, as part of that, we have made that investment and are now able to provide 30,000-plus masks for all students and all staff in every one our nine districts in Ulster County,” Ryan says. “We know that that’s just one mask. Obviously, you may need more at some point, but, at least, as a starting point, to make sure that every single member of the school community has that critical piece of PPE to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
For more information on the Project Resilience Child Care Initiative, residents may call the Ulster County Recovery Service Center at (845) 443-8888, or visit the county’s web site. Across the river, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro recently announced the county is offering more than $197,000 for a COVID-19 Childcare Relief Scholarship to benefit eligible families.