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New York Expands Access to Child Care for Families with Limited Income

by CBJC Staff August 31, 2022

Lily Gottlieb was the summer intern of the Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

In April 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the State’s plan to materially increase child care funding for families with limited income. The State will invest as much as $7 billion in the next four years to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of child care. As part of the $2 billion installment this year, New York will expand eligibility requirements to make child care subsidies available to more families. Effective August 8, 2022, families in New York may apply for subsidies if they are at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level ($83,250 for a family of four), up from the previous limit of 200% ($55,500 for a family of four). Further, parents or guardians attending post-secondary education will no longer have to meet the 17.5-hour work requirement to qualify for subsidies.

While increased funding to support families in New York is a step in the right direction, questions arise about whether the State’s plan will effectively meet the high demand and need for child care. It is estimated that the State’s efforts will help 15-20% of newly eligible parents pay for child care. In New York City, for example, State funding will only cover 15% or 10,800 out of 72,000 newly eligible families. This will leave countless children and families with limited means without crucial support. A lack of child care impedes a parent’s or guardian’s ability to join the workforce as well as the child’s social and cognitive development.

The City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless, in collaboration with Brittany Bacon, a pro bono lawyer from Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and board member for the Justice Center’s parent entity, the City Bar Fund, represented a family that moved out of a homeless shelter and immediately faced the challenges New York’s new plan is meant to address. Hoping for a fresh start in a stable home, Ms. R, a mother of two young children, nonetheless did not make enough to pay for child care on her own, but also did not meet the eligibility requirements for public assistance and free child care because her income was considered too high. Ms. R reached out to Ms. Bacon for advice and guidance about her dilemma: should she look for another job to make ends meet, or look to earn less to be eligible for public assistance and free child care?

When asked about the child care crisis in New York, Ms. Bacon said “it is a very unfortunate situation that many parents of limited economic means face. They do their best to work hard and support their families without relying on public assistance. Yet the cost of child care, especially for young children, can be significant.” In response to the increased state funding, Ms. Bacon believes that “it is a step in the right direction, but there’s still more to be done to ensure families who need access to child care get it.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams made efforts to further expand the accessibility and affordability of child care. On June 28, the mayor released an independent city-wide plan called the Blueprint for Child Care & Early Childhood Education in NYC, outlining child care goals and strategies for achieving them. Specific initiatives include expanding subsidy access for undocumented immigrants, reducing weekly fees for families receiving subsidized care, eliminating the backlog for voucher waitlists, and creating a new portal to simply the application process for subsidized care. The plan promises to make essential care available to 41,000 more children. New York will need to continue implementing changes as many families will remain unable to afford or access quality child care.

For more information or to learn about child care resources in New York City, please click the links below:

This communication is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. Because all legal problems involve their own specific set of facts, this informational resource is not and should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice. This informational resource also is not intended to create, and its receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact competent, independent legal counsel for an assessment of your particular legal concerns, or contact our Legal Hotline (212-626-7383 or https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/legal-hotline/) to determine whether you qualify for assistance from the City Bar Justice Center. The client story discussed in this communication is being shared with the client’s consent.


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