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Advocates: Day care centers, critical to reopening, need help to survive

Alicia Marks, owner of Marks of Excellence Child

Alicia Marks, owner of Marks of Excellence Child Care Center in Amityville, says day care centers need financial help to survive.  Here, she poses pre-COVID.  Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Lawmakers, day care operators and parents are calling on New York State to invest  $134 million in CARES Act funding to ensure that day care centers can safely reopen in the wake of the pandemic.  

Day care is critical to reopening the state’s economy, state Assemb. Michaelle C. Solages (D-Elmont) said.   "We can't think of reopening without first ensuring access to safe and affordable child care," she said.

Child care providers were struggling even before the extra challenges created by the pandemic, Solages said. "The child care industry here is in crisis — if we don't take the time to figure this out, we're simply setting ourselves up for failure."  

Advocates at a virtual press conference last week also said the next federal relief package should include at least $50 billion for child care "to assist states to safely reopen and recover.” Of that federal aid, $2.2 billion could be allotted to New York State, the nonprofit Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy in Albany estimated.

Child care center owners, already burdened by the rising minimum wage and an increase in operational costs, say without the financial help the new requirements for reopening -- which will include reduced class sizes and personal protective equipment for staff -- could be the final nail in the coffin.

Alicia Marks, owner of Marks of Excellence, an Amityville child care center where more than 90% of children receive subsidized care, said without adequate support, providers can't operate.

"We will simply close," she said.

"Child care is on the brink of collapsing as an industry... Minimum wages go up every year, without increased subsidies. Then there's added policies, added staff background security checks, operational costs rising and now COVID regulations,” Marks said. “We're strapped."

Her center remains closed, but upon reopening Marks said the funding would "support the 50% decrease in enrollment to accommodate the request to keep our children socially distanced at a 10 child per class ratio, added PPE, and added safety assets for our facilities."

Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association business group, said the child care industry, which he called 'critically important' to the Island's economy, is in dire need of financial support at the federal and state level.

"Child care needs to be looked at not as a woman's issue or a family issue but as an economic development issue," Law said.

"Without an affordable and safe child care system in place, businesses on Long Island would suffer," and our recovery would be stifled, he said.

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