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Cuomo: Free day care for essential workers who meet income limits

Essential workers throughout the state may now receive child care free of cost under a new state initiative designed to keep them on the job during the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week on the New York State website.

The $30 million allocation is part of $163.6 million in emergency relief provided to the state by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The funding could not have come at a better time, said Kaley Donaldson, communications specialist for Child Care Resource Network, a training and referral agency.

More than 50% of the 531 licensed programs registered with the Child Care Resource Network in Erie County have closed, said Donaldson.

“About 250 remain open, but that number changes regularly as providers continue to make the decision to close their doors,” Donaldson said. “Access to affordable and safe childcare is a barrier for working parents during the best of times, and even more so during a crisis."

Jumped Up Jellybeans, in the Town of Tonawanda, remains open despite enrollment that had fallen from an average of 10 children to two, said provider Danielle Kinsman, who started her home business in 2014.

Soon, she is planning to shift operations to a commercial location on Hertel Avenue.

Kinsman now cares for two sisters, ages two and three, who are children of an essential worker employed by People Inc., a non-profit agency offering services to individuals with special needs.

Kinsman described the current child care industry as uncertain.

“Half the industry is asking for funding because we’re hurting; the other half is saying we’re essential,” said Kinsman. “Everyone is afraid right now. [Essential workers] probably have someone in their family who is not an essential worker who can watch their children. They’re not bringing them to daycare.”

The child care funds will be available only to those working parents who meet the income requirements, noted Donaldson. Essential workers who use a regulated provider will receive funding as long as it is available. Funds must be used to pay for an existing childcare arrangement or, if childcare is needed, to fund services referred through the resource network.

“Families that qualify must have an adjusted gross income below 300% of the federal poverty level,” Donaldson said. “For a family of four, that equals an annual income of $78,600.”

The state defines essential workers as those employed in health care, pharmaceuticals, law enforcement, firefighting, food delivery, grocery stores and others needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Essential employees with child care needs are asked to contact Child Care Resource Network, 1000 Hertel Ave.

Childcare providers who remain in business must now balance caring for children and keeping everyone healthy, said Donaldson. “Then there is the issue of their inability to access health and safety supplies they need to continue operating,” she said.

The $30 million funding initiative will also facilitate the purchase of supplies including gloves, masks, bleach, hand soap, hand sanitizer, thermometers and alcohol swabs. Up to $600 will be allowed per provider, Donaldson said.

The resource network is expected to launch the supply initiative within the near future.

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