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State to funnel $1.1 billion in federal child care provider funds

Children at the Marks of Excellence Child Care

Children at the Marks of Excellence Child Care Center in Amityville, Feb. 27, 2019. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Child care providers, who struggled to keep their doors open during the pandemic, will soon get financial relief. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state would administer $1.1 billion in federal funding directly to providers.

The grants — available through the American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act — will help replenish losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo said in a news release.

Funding applications for eligible providers went online Tuesday at https://on.ny.gov/3A0Vsie.

"Many child care providers struggled to stay open throughout the pandemic as parents stayed home with their children," Cuomo said. "Stabilizing the child care industry is critical to New York's economic rebirth."

The investment aims to allow child care programs to continue providing essential services and aid more parents in returning to the workplace full time.

Jennifer Marino Rojas, executive director of the Child Care Council of Suffolk Inc., said she's happy to know financial relief is near for child care givers. She said she's been fielding calls from providers decrying the lack of financial support from the state for months.

Janine Marks, owner of the Oyster Babies Early Childhood Centers in Oyster Bay and Huntington Station, said she would be submitting a grant application for her centers Tuesday.

"Our Huntington Station location has been running on fumes," she said. "We’re hoping this money is a lifeline that’ll help keep us afloat and help us keep staff employed and ultimately, help us keep our doors open."

Marks said the money she obtained through previous grants and a Paycheck Protection Program loan — totaling $150,000 — "was just not enough in terms of getting us through this." The rent alone at Marks’ Oyster Bay location surpasses that amount, she said.

"The situation is still so precarious because on the one hand, we’re on the verge of reopening but at the same time, we’re taking a step back again and parents are not really sure what they’re going to do about child care," she said.

Eligible providers include Office of Children and Family Services-licensed or registered programs and certain others such as summer camps and school-based after-school programs.

To be eligible, the programs must have been open and serving children in person as of March 11, 2021, and open and available to provide in-person services on the date they apply for the grant.

"For child care providers, many of them hanging on by a thread, this money is so important. They stayed open throughout the worst of the pandemic, taking care of the children of our essential workers, so that they could go out there and save lives," Marino Rojas said.

"All the while, they were losing money because they couldn't operate at full capacity due to social distancing guidelines to prevent the virus' spread and even now, with a lot of people still working from home, providers have been open, accruing debt."

There are 1,729 child care programs on Long Island, 976 in Nassau and 753 in Suffolk. In comparison, in August of 2019, there were 1,762 child care programs on the Island, according to Child Care Council data.

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