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State reps discuss child care, request coronavirus federal aid

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As the fall months approach, and most of New York remains open with low coronavirus infection rates, many working parents are returning to their jobs. For their children, however, remains the lingering question of whether schools will remain fully or partly closed, and whether many children of working parents will require full-time child care providers during the day. 

On July 22, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care and the office of Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages hosted a virtual meeting entitled “child care is essential,” with state lawmakers, child care industry advocates, local parents and health care providers. 

During the meeting they discussed the challenges both parents and the child care industry has faced during the pandemic and many advocated for the need for more federal financial support for parents and child care workers to aid with the high demand for child care services. 

“Child care is in a bad economic place and if the federal government doesn’t provide this money, we will have to slash child care programs,” Solages said. “Already 30 percent of child care services have closed and without this money, things are only going to get worse—which will slowly kill Long Island and New York state.”

In late June, a group of over 60 New York State legislators sent a letter to the New York Congressional Delegation urging them to secure an investment of at least $50 billion in the next federal coronavirus relief package to stabilize the child care sector for children of all ages. 

As the pandemic continues, Solages said that with disruptions caused by the virus, many more parents in the state may be forced to turn to professional child care services that they might not be able to afford. However, despite the increase in need for those services, many child care centers are taking in fewer children because of cuts to class sizes to adhere to social distancing protocols. That, has in turn negatively impacted the child care centers.

“With less students, there is less tuition and with less money, it is harder for these child care centers to pay rent and buy personal protective equipment and sanitation equipment to take care of the children,” Solages said. “A lot of child care centers were in crisis before the pandemic because of the minimum wage increase, but the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.”

Many child care providers also expressed the need for the financial support to help keep their businesses afloat. Mothers also shared their struggle to balance work and home schooling their kids during the pandemic. 

“Before the pandemic, money was already tight for us and now we have to purchase Personal Protective Equipment and other safety equipment to do our jobs.” said Alicia Marks, a child care provider at the Marks of Excellence Child Care Center in Amityville New York. “Child care is on the verge of collapsing because we have been traumatized by the pandemic.” 

Juliana Pinto-Mckeen, a child care provider at Honeybirds Playschool in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, said that business at her center—which services children 2 and a half to 5 years old—had been good for the past six years until the pandemic. 

In early March, Honeybirds closed because Pinto-Mckeen said no one felt safe with the coronavirus spreading before the mandated closures. With the business closed, they lost half of their tuition from customers. When they tried to reopen a few months later, 45 percent of customers dropped out, they eventually lost 55 percent of necessary enrollment from customers, and now the business remains closed. 

“Our economy cannot go back to work without childcare,” she said. “Failure to act today is a generational crisis.” 

Paulette Duran, a mother to a 6 year old daughter named Naomi, said that working full time for eight hours a day while homeschooling her child has been the most difficult and scary things she has ever experienced. 

“I do not have any other options,” she said, with the hope that health care providers and mothers could both receive financial help to make child care services more affordable. “We desperately need adequate money and resources and I pray that they help us.”