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Bello promises a year of child care to county subsidy recipients

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Max Schulte
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WXXI News file photo
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Working parents who receive child care subsidies from Monroe County will no longer be ousted from the program if they get a pay raise that pushes their salary over the threshold for benefits, under a policy change announced by County Executive Adam Bello.

Until recently, parents who qualified for the subsidies ran the risk of having them taken away if they got a wage increase at work — a pay hike that, in many cases, would not necessarily cover the cost of child care.

Bello said those parents will now receive a year reprieve. Once a family is eligible for child care subsidies, it will get to keep them as long as its income doesn’t rise above 85 percent of New York’s median income — $89,226 for a family of four.

“If we’re going to fully recover from the economic hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our working parents must be able to find and keep good paying jobs or undergo the training that they need to pursue work and a path to prosperity and stability,” Bello said during a news conference.

The change was one of several Bello announced on Monday. He said all of them were meant to increase parents’ access to child care and help stabilize providers.

Among the changes was a deal to raise the number of days a subsidized child could be absent from a day care facility throughout the course of a year without being forced to leave the program. The county had covered the state legal minimum of 24 days, but the county has boosted the ceiling to 80 absences.

“A couple of weeks ago when I learned about the absences I was doing happy dances all across my office,” Generations Child Care owner Bridget Shumway said. “It’s a game changer.”

Bridget Shumway childcare
Jeremy Moule
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CITY
Bridget Shumway, owner of Generations Child Care, said that changes to the child care subsidy system announced Monday will be a "game changer."

Shumway estimated that roughly half of the more than 500 children enrolled in her seven centers are subsidized by the county. She explained that her business operates on tight margins and has labor and rent costs that can’t be trimmed. Most child care businesses aren’t in a position where they can absorb the cost of holding placements open for absent children, she added.

The county also worked with the Child Care Council to make changes to a program that pre-certifies families, providing for quicker enrollment of children with their parents’ choice of day care provider.

Additionally, the county is reducing the parent’s obligation to 1 percent of their child day care costs, which Bello stated is the lowest it can go under state law. The fees had been waived during the pandemic. The county estimated that the change will save parents around $900 a year on average.

Kizzie Ware, a single parent whose 5- and 9-year-old children attend Generations five days a week, explained that waiving the fee lessened a financial burden on working parents, many of whom relied on day care during the pandemic. She said she was grateful for the changes announced Monday.

“During the past two years, it has been hard on most families, due to the pandemic, dealing with concerns about our children’s education and overall well-being,” Ware said. “But not having to worry about losing employment due to the lack of child care has been very rewarding.”