With Washington debating what may be the final COVID-19 stimulus bill, child care advocates in New York are making a major push for $50 billion so parents can go back to work.
In the mix of the D.C. hopper are two bills to re-start day care nationally. Many centers have been forced out of business by the economic dislocations of the pandemic and those that are open can't care for as many kids as usual because of pandemic restrictions. That means the economics of operating the business won't work.
That is where all those federal dollars come in: subsidies to keep day care centers open and while letting others re-open across the country. It is all very difficult, said those in a Zoom news conference Wednesday.
Sofia Mado owns two struggling local day care centers, which tried to raise rates because of higher costs like a rising minimum wage.
"It's been hard paying even what our regular rates are and they were struggling anyway," Mado said. "We're often donating child care to many of our parents. We're in the service business. We work with heart and soul. We are not just cut-throat business where you pay or you are out. We cannot do that to our parents."
Beth Starks is a child care advocate in Chautauqua County with three children of her own.
"My ex-husband and I made the tough decision, as he was working as well and not able to stay home and quarantine," Starks said. "We put all three of my children in quarantine with my parents, who are retired. And so, although I was going to my center every day to provide care for other essential workers, my own children were at my parents' house."
Starks said she visited her kids for six weeks from 6' away.
"You're heard stories tonight about this," said state Sen. George Borello. "My friend Beth Starks. Her center certainly opened and she's working hard, along with all of her team members, but it is a struggle. If you look across especially rural New York State, where we already had child care deserts, as it was, this is a major problem. 30-50% of them have been closing, depending on the counties."