Op-Ed | We need to invest in Universal Child Care

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As working parents with young children, we deeply understand how challenging — and frustrating — it can be to find adequate child care for our children. For so many parents and guardians across the country, childcare is priced as a luxury, but is an absolute necessity. Families are often forced to choose between childcare, financial security, and career development — but no one should be forced to make that choice.

That’s why we need to invest in Universal Child Care; it is a generational commitment to our economy and our community. From month-long waitlists to exorbitant costs, we’ve had to bring along our children to hearings or community events as a last resort. But for the vast majority of parents that don’t have that option, mothers are too often burdened with putting their careers on pause to ensure their children are properly cared for.

In order to have equity in our workforce, we need to give parents options and give childcare providers the resources they need to stay open. That’s why we introduced Universal Child Care in the City Council: we need to reimagine the way we approach child care in New York. But even if legislation to create Universal Child Care is fully supported by the body and passed by the City Council, we need New Yorkers to rally behind this need and demand a funding commitment from Mayor Eric Adams, demonstrating to the Mayor that there is significant public support to fund this program.

Universal Child Care would support not just children and their families, but would build up communities that have long been disinvested. Parents across all racial groups have indicated that they have struggled to find affordable and accessible childcare, but communities of color face even greater challenges in finding both accessible and affordable childcare within their communities. While Hispanic families often struggle to find childcare in their neighborhoods, Black families report cost as the biggest burden, taking up about 42 percent of their median income.

In 2020 in New York City, for parents with children younger than three, the average cost for home-based care was more than $10,000 a year, and center-based care was about $19,000 annually. This is not tenable for the vast majority of New Yorkers. For 50% of New Yorkers, this is almost a quarter of their income.

This is the reality of what parents across the country are facing. Policies aimed at alleviating the burden of paying for childcare have been shown to make a difference, while delivering critical boosts to our economy: the lack of Universal Child Care costs NYC $23 billion in lost economic output, and $2.2 billion in tax revenue. This is an economic issue for everyone in our City — and it’s why universal childcare must be a priority across all levels of government.

As New York City Council members, we’re leading the way for the rest of our nation and acting where the federal and state governments are not moving fast enough. New York has led the nation in implementing progressive policies with broad public support. We have the opportunity to do it once again by enacting Universal Child Care legislation, introduced by Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez. As of April 10, there are 30 council members who have signed on to the bill. We can’t afford to waste this chance.

Jennifer Gutierrez, Kevin C. Riley, Pierina Sanchez, Carlina Rivera and Julie Won are New York City Council members.