County Child Care Advocate Testifies About CARES Act Allocation
A convoluted and arduous process has delayed state officials allocating a significant portion of $164 million in CARES Act funding for child care.
Because of the problems during the first round of funding, how the state is going to handle distributing the next round of $469 million for child care is in question.
To help the state make the system more transparent, child care advocates held a press conference and testified in a joint legislative budget hearing on economic development earlier this week about the need for the funding to be released in an efficient and timely manner.
One of the advocates who testified was Beth Starks, Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center founder and executive director. Starks told The Post-Journal that the state received $164 million in CARES Act funding 10 months ago, but has only allocated $40 million. Now because of the next CARES Act funding approved by the federal government in December, state officials are determining how it will allocate $469 for child care. Starks said the state had a deadline of Feb. 25 to submit its plan to the federal government on how it will use the funding.
“We want to make sure the process will be transparent,” she said. “There were so many problems with the initial funding, so we want the process to be transparent.”
Starks said the efficient allocation of the CARES Act funding to child care centers and families is important to economic development in the state because it allows people to go back to work, which improves the economy.
“It’s important to infrastructure,” she said. “We desperately need all of our workforce to go to work to sustain their families. Having childcare available and affordable is really important.”
Starks said the process to receive funding from the initial $164 million from the CARES Act was convoluted, which needs to be fixed before state officials start the process of releasing an additional $469 million.
“It was really difficult to get the funding for child care facilities,” she said. “We need it to go to providers immediately instead of making the process arduous. We didn’t have a user-friendly process.”
Starks said the $469 million needs to be allocated to families to expand access to child care for more people and to help child care providers stay open and provide a sustainable wage to their employees.
“It comes down to investing in children and making our children a priority,” she said. “The state needs to do that and Chautauqua County does as well. Then we can look to plan for our future. That return on investment for early childhood is huge. We have that opportunity. We are usually fighting for funding, but, right now, we have the funding.”
Starks said both state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, have been instrumental in helping child care advocates get their message across in Albany.
Borrello said in a news release calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to effectively allocate the CARES Act funding that the challenges of the pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing childcare system.
“Even as many working parents found themselves desperate for quality care due to school closures, they were confronted with a shortage of options as many under-resourced providers had to close their doors at the beginning of the crisis,” he said. “The federal funds allocated to New York state are critically needed, not only for short-term relief, but as a long-term investment toward expanding the reach and resiliency of our child care system. This is a goal that will benefit both our families and our economy.”
Starks said state officials can no longer look at supporting child care as a subsidy.
“This is an area we all agree we need to do right by our children and we need to get people back to work,” she said. “We need the action. It’s not enough to have the words. We need the action to follow it up.”