City Comptroller Scott Stringer shared a plan that would triple the number of subsidized day-care spots available across the city with community advocates in East Harlem July 8.
Although the de Blasio administration has worked to expand its free pre-kindergarten program, few affordable options exist for children under three, according to a report released by the Comptroller’s office.
Dearth of Slots
Currently, there are only enough slots in day-care centers and family day-care providers to serve 22 percent of children two and under across the city. Some neighborhoods, such as Sunnyside in Queens or Tottenville in Staten Island, are “day-care deserts” that don’t have enough seats to serve 5 percent of the babies living there.
Then there’s the issue of affordability: the average cost of day-care was $18,746 for children under three.
Mr. Stringer proposed a plan called NYC Under 3, which would allocate $500 million over five years to build new day-care centers, allowing the number of subsidized seats to triple by serving 84,000 children. Parents earning up to $103,000 a year would be eligible to receive subsidized care on a sliding scale. Under the initiative, a family of four earning less than $25,750 a year would receive free child care, while those earning $38,625 would pay $1,545 a year.
“We need to expand subsidized child-care to as many New Yorkers as possible,” Mr. Stringer said at the East Harlem headquarters of Community Voices Heard, which advocates affordable housing and improving the city’s safety-net programs. “We want our kids to get the early opportunities they’re entitled to and they can’t get it if a single parent is working and the kids don’t have a place to go—or even worse, a parent can’t work and now stays home with their baby because there’s no affordable day-care.”
Boost to Workforce
The report estimated that expanding day-care services would allow about 20,000 people to return to the workforce, mostly women.
Besides the benefits of having a larger workforce, Mr. Stringer noted that the plan would especially help educate low-income children.
“Eighty percent of brain development happens before the age of three,” he said. “We have to do this, because right now too many children are not having the same benefit as the children whose parents do make a lot of money. Look at what’s happening in the public school system now. It’s the wealthier parents in the school system who can afford all of the enrichment programs.”
The proposal will require support from the state legislature, and so far has the support of Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Senators Jessica Ramos and Brad Hoylman.
Afua Atta-Mensah, executive director of Community Voices Heard, said the issue of affordable child-care was critical for keeping families in the community.
“Women in my age group often raise this as one of the reasons why they’re leaving the city,” she said.
The advocates voiced support for the proposal, but wanted to ensure that high-quality child-care programs would be developed. Maria Pacheco, who volunteers at day-care and senior service provider Union Settlement, lauded the plan “because it allows the parent to move up with the child,” she said.
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