Queens lawmaker rallies with advocates in Forest Hills to urge the state to transform child care

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Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi with child care providers and advocates in Forest Hills at MacDonald Park. (Courtesy of Hevesi’s office)

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi along with childcare providers and advocates rallied in Forest Hills at MacDonald Park Tuesday, May 18, to celebrate the game-changing investments made in early care and education in the state’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget. 

Hevesi joined providers from Empire State Campaign for Child Care and Winning Beginning NY at MacDonald Park located at 8720 Queens Blvd. 

“This year’s budget victories provided a one-time opportunity to save providers impacted in the pandemic, and lay the groundwork for systemic change to make childcare more accessible for all,” said Hevesi, chair of the Committee on Children and Families. “The state must do the right thing and implement these funds immediately, and in full. Our economic recovery, our providers and our children are depending on it.” 

Through the use of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan and previous rounds of federal stimulus funding, as well as a tax increase on the highest income New Yorkers, the FY 2021-22 budget takes large steps to expand access to child care subsidies, decrease parent costs for childcare, equalize subsidy eligibility requirements throughout the state and expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten.

Thanks to investments made in the budget, thousands of low-income working families who are desperate for access to childcare subsidies can come off of waitlists and enroll their children in high-quality, affordable early childhood education programs, and the cost of childcare will decline for even more working families. An expanded early childhood Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), Quality Stars NY, will help more programs improve and implement best practices. Plus, childcare providers that were forced to close doors due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, and those still open, but struggling, will have access to up-front stabilization grants. Additionally, Universal pre-K classrooms will expand throughout the state.

The budget is a hard-won victory for New York’s parents and childcare providers who made state leaders understand that recovery cannot happen without robust, sustained investment in early childhood education, including childcare and after-school programs. 

Throughout the pandemic, hundreds of parents and providers came together virtually and in socially distanced in-person events to speak for the needs in their communities. Parents, disproportionately mothers, had to drop out of the workforce to care for children at home due to childcare closures and the shift to remote learning. Meanwhile, child care providers were unable to keep their doors open due to the extraordinary new costs and challenges associated with the pandemic. 

“Parents, providers and advocates raised their collective voice to ensure that our elected officials have deep knowledge and understanding of the issues they face on a day to day basis in order to take action. For that we are deeply grateful,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, policy and operations director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Hevesi and Brooklyn Senator Jabari Brisport worked in solidarity with families and providers throughout New York State to achieve a final budget that will not only save New York’s struggling childcare sector, but also set New York on a transformational path to dramatically expanding access to early education, including child care and after-school programs.

However, there is more work to be done as New York state ensures that the policy changes and investments are rolled out quickly, effectively, equitably, and with significant and ongoing input from parents, childcare providers, educators and advocates. According to advocates, more than six weeks after the enactment of the New York State Budget, the state has not developed a plan to utilize more than $2 billion in federal aid for child care. 

The funding is an opportunity to transform childcare. At the same time, the challenges facing the child care sector and families as the impact of the pandemic continues cannot be overstated, advocates said.

Dede Hill, director of policy at the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy and a co-facilitator of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, said the opportunity presents New York families and the childcare providers that care the youngest learners is “extraordinary, particularly coming on the heels of one of the hardest years many New York families have ever faced.” 

“New York has a plan to strengthen, make more uniform and equitable, and dramatically expand access to high-quality child care in the recommendations the governor’s Child Care Availability Task Force just released. It has the record funds flowing from the federal government, along with federal leadership committed to sustained investment in early childhood, and now it has a budget that will usher in dramatically expanded access to child care immediately,” Hill said.

Gregory Brender, director of Public Policy at the Day Care Council of New York, said the pandemic has laid bare the need to guarantee that New York families have access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education regardless of their ZIP code or their income. 

“With the historic child care investment in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the visionary work of legislative leaders including Assembly member Hevesi and Senator Brisport, New York has the opportunity to truly transform child care to meet the needs of all families,” Brender said. “Day Care Council is proud to work with allies throughout the state to ensure that these budget victories mean real results for New York families.”