New York expands child care options for military families

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(The Center Square) — New York is expanding child care options for tens of thousands of military families under a new federally funded program to plug gaps in the system.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said New York is piloting a new U.S. Department of Defense child care assistance program for military families who can’t find childcare because of weight lists or a lack of providers participating in federal child care programs.

Under the pilot program, military families will receive a maximum of $1800 per month per child to offset the cost of child care at licensed providers, according to Hochul.

“While the costs of child care continue to rise beyond what many families can afford, providing high-quality, accessible, and low-cost care choices for New York families is vital,” Hochul said in a statement. “That commitment extends to our military families.”

Hochul said about 48,000 families will be eligible for the assistance, including those at the military base at Fort Drum, which has 15,000 active service members.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation who pushed for New York to implement the program welcomed

“Our military families sacrifice an enormous amount for our country and it is vital that they receive the child care assistance they deserve,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said in a statement.

The Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS program was created 15 years ago to provide financial aid to reduce the personal cost for military families using community child care providers. But the child care providers must be nationally accredited, which has left many families with limited options.

Overall, the lack of child care options in New York is costing working families, some of whom are spending 20% to 40% of their annual income on programs.

The average cost of child care is $15,394 a year in New York, the sixth-most expensive state in the nation, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute.

A typical family in New York would have to spend 39.8% of its income on child care for an infant and a 4-year-old, according to the report. Child care costs in New York City are even higher.

Many child care providers are financially strained in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and advocates say low compensation and the rising costs of caring for children are putting some providers out of business. Meanwhile, early education providers struggle to retain workers in an industry where the pay is traditionally low and health risks are elevated.

New York lawmakers recently approved a plan to spend $4.8 million to create a new Employer-Sponsored Child Care Pilot Program that splits the cost of child care between employers, employees and the state’s taxpayers. To qualify, families must earn between 85% and 100% of the state’s $69,651 annual median income.

Another measure created a new $25 million Employer Child Care Tax Credit for businesses to expand child care options for their workers.

But Hochul has clashed with fellow Democrats and child care advocates over a proposal floated by lawmakers during budget negotiations, which called for spending $5 billion for a universal child care system for all New York families, regardless of income or immigration status.

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