Expanding child care programs so it reaches virtually every family in the state needs $5 billion in funding in the coming state budget plan, supporters of the legislation on Wednesday said.
The push comes as state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are negotiating her $216 billion budget proposal, which is expected to pass by the end of March.
Hochul's plan includes expanding child care access for up to 100,000 families in the state. Eligibility for aid would increase from 200% above the federal poverty to 225%. Hochul also wants $75 million to increase pay for workers in the child care sector.
Hochul's support for the expansion is contingent on the lack of action for President Joe Biden's proposed domestic spending package known as Build Back Better, which has stalled over the last month since Hochul delivered her State of the State address.
But advocates have argued much more is needed to meet a demand made all the more urgent by the COVID pandemic in the last two years. Advocates rallied in several New York cities on Wednesday for the funding.
"Child care is essential to the growth of our communities. For our families to thrive and our economy to be healthy, we need to ensure that everyone has access to quality child care. We need to make sure that program providers and teachers are being compensated for the important work and service they provide for New York's families," said Stevie Vargas, campaign coordinator, Alliance for Quality Education. "AQE stands with parents, providers, and child care teachers in calling on New York State to invest $5 billion for universal child care."
Supporters contend a universal expansion of child care would aid low income families as well as people of color in the state.
"The legislature has the opportunity to provide quality care and early education to children regardless of income level with universal child care — the question is, will they work to create a system which leaves out protections for some children, or work toward a compassionate system for all?" said Matthew Mackey, a member of Citizen Action of New York in the Hudson Valley.