Modified: February 14, 2020 1:02pm
The Erie County Department of Social Services (“ECDSS”) has been awarded an additional $2 million by the New York State Office of Child and Family Services for the expansion of the Child Care Assistance Program, which is available to employed families who earn 200 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Level.
Parents with children enrolled in the program contribute toward the cost of care based on a sliding income scale. Erie County receives funds for this program through the New York State Child care Block Grant, and was initially designated to receive $26,567,598 in its 2019-2020 Child Care Block Grant allocation. New York State then allocated an additional $2 million in funding to expand this program to counties such as Erie that agree to expand the availability of subsidized child care. Concurrent with receiving the increased assistance (though not paid from it), effective February 1, Erie County increased the “market rate” paid to child care providers from the previous 2016 rate to the approved 2019 rate, thereby providing additional dollars to child-care providers.
“Helping families and children maintain healthy and productive lives is at the core of our Live Well Erie effort. This expansion of our subsidized day care program will help to give every child a chance to succeed and will also empower working families. This funding boost will make a big difference to families who need day care but haven’t been able to afford it, and we encourage them to apply” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “We will continue working to improve the lives of our residents and build an Erie County that is healthier, more inclusive, and better prepared for the future. I thank the Office of Child and Family Services for extending this funding and helping more families and children here in Erie County.”
ECDSS expects to serve approximately one hundred families with the funding. The $2 million child care subsidy will allow the Department of Social Services to help families by providing supports for:
• an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructional program designed to develop skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing the English language for individuals whose primary language is one other than English. Limited levels in English proficiency are a common challenge in refugee populations and an ESL program will assist participants and their families in achieving economic and social self-sufficiency.
• a two-year, full-time degree granting program at a community college, a two-year college, or an undergraduate college program with a specific vocational goal leading to an associate's degree or a certificate of completion.
• participation in a vocational training program with a specific occupational goal that is licensed or approved by the State Education Department and conducted by an institution other than a college or university. Vocational education programs provide participants with marketable job skills sought by local in-demand occupations. This vocational program must be on the district approved program list.
• a public or private educational facility to provide a standard high school curriculum, offered or approved by the local school district, that is no longer limited to participation by a Parent/Caretaker under the age of 21.
• an education program that prepares an individual to obtain a New York State High School equivalency diploma and is not limited to a Parent/Caretaker under the age of 21.
Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon said, “This additional $2 million in funding will allow our Department to offer more supports to families with daycare needs as they gain the education they need, the language skills they need, or the training and work skills they need to succeed. Developing these skills is critical in order for these families to prosper long-term and become healthy, productive participants in our community. Daycare costs can take up a disproportionate share of a family’s budget and leave little room or money for increasing education or skills training, so these funds will address those gaps. These supports will help these families to increase earnings, better care for loved ones, and grow stronger together.”
Market rates for child care are based on a number of factors, including the child’s age, but the market rate for child care has increased as has the minimum wage, squeezing providers who must pay employees more while still providing quality care at the 2016 rate. For example, for a one-year-old infant at a childcare center the market rate has increased from $259 to $280 per week.
“Our increasing of the market rate paid to child care providers will allow them to pay their employees an appropriate wage for the important services they provide,” said Poloncarz. “Employees of child care providers have one of the most important jobs in our region – caring for our youngest constituents – and deserve to be paid wages commensurate with the services they provide.”
“Increasing the market rate offers relief to child care providers and will help them to retain employees, creating more stable environments for the children in their care and improving outcomes overall,” Commissioner Cannon added. “This increase will benefit child care providers, employees, and the children they care for.”
For more information:
On the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/