The child care sector in New York was in dire straits even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but after it hit, more than 3,500 providers had to shut their doors between January 2020 and July 2022, according to The Children's Agenda.

Billions of dollars of stimulus funding was spent by the federal government to shore up the sector through the CARES Act and stabilization grant funding via ARPA.

While New York’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is still in the process of distributing federal money to child care providers, to date, the agency has distributed over $1 billion.

“And we have another billion to distribute through various initiatives,” Nora Yates, acting deputy commissioner of OCFS’ Division of Child Care Services, told Capital Tonight.

A just-released analysis from OCFS and the Raising NY coalition, a cross-section of parent, early childhood, education, business and health organizations, including the Education Trust NY and The Children's Agenda, shows how that money was spent.

Among the findings of the analysis, which included information from 13,578 recipients of relief funding for child care:

  • Improvements made by OCFS between CARES II and CARES III allowed more providers and different types of providers, including more home-based providers, to access the relief funding
  • Collecting data on provider gender, race and ethnicity is necessary to track and promote equity in funding access and distribution
  • How providers spent the relief funding varied based on the type of provider, with a larger proportion of home-based programs, including family child care, group family day care and some license-exempt care spending money on rent, mortgage and utilities than center-based programs, which spent more of the funding on personnel costs
  • Data collection that does not track the ages of children served limits transparency and accountability, and particularly impacts our ability to effectively support infants, toddlers and their families

“It was important that we got as much money and support out as quickly as possible,” said Yates.

When asked what OCFS learned from the analysis, Yates said listening to providers was key to the success of the programs.

“We learned, first and foremost, to always partner with our providers and how this would best work for them. We learned that we need to make the process as simple as possible for them,” she said. 

The Raising NY coalition included recommendations in the report. They include the following:

  • Include key and impacted stakeholders in the planning stage of all grants and establish a continual feedback loop
  • Increase and expand the capacity of the online grant and application portal
  • Increase data collection and transparency
  • Establish an equity-driven distribution process
  • Ensure that relief funding does not impact eligibility for social services and other benefits
  • Provide necessary short-term financial relief while working toward transformation of the child care system

Yates told Capital Tonight that OCFS will do an additional analysis of child care deserts this fall.

“The governor is investing $100 million to work on those really hard-hit parts of the state,” Yates said. “We just rolled out $70 million of that, and the remaining balance providers are applying for right now.”