U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, joined a virtual panel of local child care providers and business leaders Tuesday, Oct. 6 to discuss the supplementary role of childcare to a viable local workforce.
“I am, before anything, a father,” said Delgado, whose twin sons, Maxwell and Coltrane, are 7 years old.
“Childcare is an area that wholeheartedly impacts our small-business community,” he continued. “I’ve heard from small business owners all across NY-19 that are facing serious childcare challenges due to COVID-19, and it’s important that we meet this moment.”
Angella Lynch, a board member of the Richfield Springs Community Center and a group family daycare provider, described the area as a “childcare desert.”
“I am the only licensed childcare provider in Richfield Springs,” she said. “My phone rings off the hook. As a community member, my heart sinks because I’m wondering where these children are going to go.”
The program also offers a low-cost afterschool program for 18 families, which was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, Lynch said. Without transportation provided by the school, families were unable to participate, even as they returned to work.
Rebecca Schultz, executive director of the Brookwood School in Cooperstown, said funding has remained the organization’s biggest challenge throughout the pandemic.
The childcare program, which enrolls children as young as six weeks, used to allow for intermingling at the beginning and end of every day as parents dropped off and picked up their children, she said. Amid the pandemic, one staff member is assigned to watch one child at a time for as long as an hour and a half.
“We have had to double our employees, yet cut in half the number of children we can take,” Lynch said.
Most employees earn minimum wage, she continued, adding that it’s “hard for them to dedicate so much time when they’re not seeing the rewards at the end of the day because of the pandemic.”
Delgado reported that the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed an “updated HEROES Act,” which allocates $57 billion in block grant resources to help improve childcare availability and accessibility.
The Direct Support for Communities Act, if passed, would expand the parameters for local governments to access relief funds, Delgado explained. Under current law, funds are reserved for municipalities of 500,000 or more residents, excluding the majority of small towns and villages throughout New York’s 19th Congressional District, the third-most rural of any Democrat in Congress and the eighth-most rural in the country.
“We don’t have very densely populated municipalities, so it’s critical that we get that aid to every community all across the district,” Delgado said.
Delgado expressed his support for the Childcare is Essential Act, which would create a $50 billion child care stabilization fund, and the Childcare for Economic Recovery Act, which would provide “ongoing federal investments and tax subsidies to working families to help bring quality childcare within our reach.”
“Even before COVID, the childcare realities were not being prioritized,” Delgado said. “We have learned a lot with COVID in terms of the impact it has had on what matters most — caring for our young people, our health, our families, our communities.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.