The challenges are real. According to the Center of American Progress, without financial help, 50% of child care centers will go out of business.

“In Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties, there are 20,000 children in need of child care under the age of 12, 30% of which live in poverty and whose parents must disburse, on average, $15,000 per year for two children in child care,” said Sara Allen Taylor, project director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country (CCCCNC). “Those numbers are unsustainable.”

That is the message a group of child care advocates from the Adirondack Community Action Program (ACAP), Birth to Three Alliance at Adirondack Foundation, CCCCNC, North Country Workforce Development (NCWDB), YMCA of Plattsburgh and Workforce Development Institute (WDI) conveyed to state and federal elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, state Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, on Sept. 16.

During the roundtable meeting, held via Zoom, the group unveiled three recommendations highlighted in the CCCCNC’s Child Care Deserts in the “North Country: A Region in Crisis” report published in late 2019 to help alleviate the challenges.

The recommendations include supporting families through facilitated enrollment, a program designed to help offset the high cost of child care for median income working families; supporting programs by advocating for CARES money to go directly to child care providers and immediately infuse cash into programs and long term investment; and lastly, support of the child care profession by streamlining and solidifying a pipeline for the development of child care businesses, beginning with recruitment of new providers.

In the opening address, Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, highlighted a U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s analysis of how struggling child care providers add to the challenges of reopening the economy during the COVID pandemic. The article (https://www.uschamber.com/press-release/childcare-providers-struggle-remain-operational-adding-challenges-reopening-the) pointed to three factors:

n Child Care providers are often excluded from the decision-making processes that impact them. Though child care is closely tied to –– and affected by –– how parents return to work and how students return to school, most child care providers are often excluded from key discussions with their local school districts or the business community.

n COVID-19 is putting a financial strain on child care providers. Decreased enrollment and increased operational costs have left most providers, both for-profit and nonprofit, in an unsustainable financial situation.

n Child care providers are working hard to balance their ability to operate with efforts to keep children healthy. The top priority for providers is understanding how to safely care for young children, knowing that continuing to operate puts staff and children at risk.

Since 2003, WDI has consistently secured funds for the Child Care Subsidy Facilitated Enrollment Program (CCSFEP) across upstate New York in Albany, Erie, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady Counties. The WDI CCSFEP is responsive to the needs of working families who would otherwise be ineligible assistance and provides a multi-generational benefit with a strong return on investment. “Without child care, parents can’t work.,” stated Brittany Buffum, WDI’s CCSFEP program manager. “The child care industry is an integral part of the state’s economic recovery, and is vital to keeping the North Country working.”

Creating a facilitated enrollment fund needs the involvement of New York state.

“We need our elected officials to include a $1.5 million fund in the New York state budget for Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties which could be used for facilitated enrollment,” said Jamie Basiliere, CCCCNC executive director. “We also need to advocate for CARES money to go directly to child care professionals and alleviate the paperwork and delays.”

The group understands that with the present COVID crisis which led to the crumbling of the economy, such an ask with be difficult. This is why they are moving forward and creating a specific child care advocacy group to help keep this important issue at the forefront of the conversation.

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