Modified: September 15, 2022 4:59pm
The true cost of child care in Erie County came into clear focus today as the Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab and Erie County’s Live Well Erie Emergency Child Care Task Force (“the Task Force”) announced the completion of their final report, “The True Cost of Child Care: Erie County, NY”. The report found that current employment in child care in Erie County is 80% of what it was in 2018, and that licensed providers can serve less than one in three children living in households where all adults are working.
Furthermore, the report revealed that in Erie County:
- 80% of all child care professionals earn below the living wage, compared to 45% of all other workers;
- 31% of child care workers rely on Medicaid, 19% are eligible for public assistance income, and 18% receive SNAP benefits; and
- 88% of child care workers are women and 29% women of color.
The final report, funded by Erie County and supplemented with NYS funds allocated to the Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, builds on the collaborative Phase One report issued earlier this year and analyzes data on the child care industry and workforce for both Erie County and NYS and will be the base for a call to action at the federal level.
“Child care is everyone’s business, providing the support structures that undergird our economy across sectors and challenging governments and employers to find better, more equitable and sustainable ways to provide quality child care and ease strains on caregivers. This final report clearly shows the disparities in the child care system and how those disparities affect parents and caregivers, employers and most of all children,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “These findings must spur action at the federal level to address these inequalities and provide the supports that families, and our business community, need to ensure that quality, affordable health care is universally available, and that child care workers are paid a wage that values the work they do and can support a family. Erie County led the way in supporting our child care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and we will continue to advocate for better, more accessible child care for all in the future.”
Poloncarz was joined by Deputy County Executive Maria R. Whyte, co-chair of the Live Well Erie Emergency Child Care Task Force, for the report’s unveiling at the SUNY Erie City campus. SUNY Erie President David Balkin, NYS Assemblymember Monica Wallace, NYS Senator Patrick Gallivan, Erie County Legislator Lisa Chimera, members of the Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab Research Team, and Commissioner of Social Services and Live Well Erie Emergency Child Care Task Force Co-Chair Marie A. Cannon were also in attendance along with numerous members of the Task Force and SUNY Erie community.
NYS Assemblymember Monica Wallace (143rd district) said, “The pandemic laid bare what most women already understood: affordable and accessible child care is critical for families and for women’s full participation in the workforce. That’s why, armed with the data that the Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab and Erie County gathered in this vital study, I was able to help secure an unprecedented $7 billion for child care. These investments are already making a difference. Parents who previously did not quality for assistance are telling me that this support has relieved the crushing financial burden of child care on their households. However, more needs to be done, and I look forward to working more with my colleagues in government to help put affordable child care within reach of every family.”
The year-long project studied the actual monetary costs of providing the services of quality child care, as contrasted to the price that is paid for child care (the market rate), and contrasted to the subsidy, the public assistance that means-tested families receive for child care. Importantly, the report showed that increases in the subsidy close gaps in the actual costs of child care and that expanded eligibility helps more families. This is of critical importance to the Erie County economy overall; between 18 and 28% of workers in all major economic industries in Erie County fall into the “likely child care demand universe”, that segment of the population as workers who have one or more children of care age (zero to 13 years) and who live in a household where all the adult members of the home work. Erie County’s leading employment sector – health and social services – is near the top at 27%.
“The True Costs of Child Care: Erie County is a data-rich picture of the deep challenges facing the child care industry and the struggling workforce of child care professionals. By rigorous analysis that quantified the gaps between the actual costs of care and NY’s subsidy rates, the study informed public policy and helped improve child care funding in this year’s state budget,” added Lou Jean Fleron of the Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab. “Yet this report has ample evidence that equity and sustainability are still a far way off. Child care workers earn less than half the median wages of all other workers in Erie County, and across New York, the median wages in child care are below the state’s minimum wage. Momentum is growing for real reform of child care, in our community as it is around the country. This report is a source of detailed industry and workforce data that can inform policy and practice innovations. It supports today’s call to action for transformation of the nation’s child care into a public good, into a system that that works for everyone and is worthy of our children’s future. “
Dottie Gallagher, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said, "Buffalo Niagara Partnership members cite the lack of qualified talent as their number one inhibitor to growth. Too much talent is currently sidelined because of a lack of viable childcare options for families, preventing parents from entering or remaining in the workforce. Increased childcare funding in the state budget this year was a great first step toward ensuring more families have access to affordable, reliable, and high-quality childcare. Now we must push our government partners to support the childcare industry so providers can expand services, truly cover their costs, and hire and retain more dedicated and trained staff."
“In the ongoing challenges that businesses address each day, child care is a critical component of the overall well-being of a company’s workforce. Attention and care to our child care services and facilities will further strengthen family resources and support translating to that company’s commitment to their team,” stated A.J. Baynes, President and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.
Childcare is everybody’s business. It is an economic and workforce development issue. Not only do we need support from our business community, we need substantial and continued support from the federal government to pay child care workers a living wage. Quality child care is essential to our economy. Many parents cannot work without reliable childcare, and child care cannot work effectively until its own workforce is secure,” added Diane Abram, Owner of Toot Toot Family Day Care.
The report also expands on a number of potential steps forward to augment and improve child care in Erie County as well as potentially state- and nationwide. Enhanced collaborations and supports for professional child care training as well as expanded collaborations with employers and unions to create more equitable, sustainable child care could be achieved while innovative approaches such as creating a pooled insurance fund and other group benefit funds for child care workers could be explored. Magnifying support for federal policy reform with transformative funding increases and developing multiple sources for direct funding for increased wages in the field are also potential steps forward.
“Child care is everyone’s business and the Poloncarz administration has shown that we take this issue seriously and are prepared to do the work to strengthen and improve this critical sector of our economy,” said Deputy County Executive Maria R. Whyte. “The release of this final report gives us and our partners the impetus to focus this issue, which is affecting not only NYS but the entire country, on policy makers at the highest levels. Erie County led the way among counties in NYS in identifying and acting on child care issues during the pandemic and is now ready to serve as a laboratory for innovative solutions at the local level, providing leadership to the growing movement for the necessary state and federal funding to achieve universal child care as a public good.”
From City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown: “Providing parents and families with affordable and high-quality child care is essential for Buffalo’s economic recovery. I thank Governor Hochul, my other partners in government, Task Force Members and everyone else involved in putting together this critical report, a great step in the right direction to help families in Buffalo and across New York State.”
For more information:
On Live Well Erie, visit https://www4.erie.gov/livewellerie/
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