Following a suite of policies proposed in a 277-page book accompanying her sweeping State of the State address, Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday highlighted several changes she’s seeking to make New York’s child care system more accessible and efficient.
While promoting the proposals at the Bronx Children’s Museum in the South Bronx on Wednesday morning, Hochul said that while her administration last year invested $7 billion in the state’s child care system over the next four years, only a small percentage of people are utilizing the services offered. Less than 10% of eligible families have utilized child care assistance since the allocation was made, Hochul said.
“Here’s the crazy thing: the money’s there, the programs are there, but families aren’t accessing it,” Hochul said. “You have to ask why. Part of it is a legacy of a system that was set up to be difficult to navigate. And I don’t know if that’s by design. But that’s just not okay with me.”
“We said ‘why can’t we make this easier,’” she continued. “So, we’re going to streamline and centralize the child care application process. It sounds simple, but no one’s done it before.”
Hochul said that breaks down into allowing families to pre-screen for eligibility online; raising the income limit for eligibility; making those who are already receiving other state benefits automatically qualify; and capping family co-pays.
Under Hochul’s proposal, families in each of the state’s 62 counties would be able to get pre-certified and apply for child care benefits online. Making this change would centralize the application process, Hochul said, putting all of the forms families must complete in one place, which should allow the state to process significantly more applications each year.
This would “remove all of the unnecessary reporting,” Hochul said. “I mean, you’re not trying to start a bank or something just trying to apply for childcare.”
Additionally, the governor said she’s seeking to elevate the income limit for child care assistance eligibility to the maximum allowed under federal law. That means the cap would be raised from $83,000 to $93,000-a-year for a family of four — which is 85% of New York’s median income. It would make roughly 113,000 more families with children qualified for child care benefits, she said.
The proposed change comes after Hochul’s administration previously brought the limit up from $67,000-a-year in 2022.
When it comes to those who are already receiving benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid, Hochul said she wants to make them automatically qualified for child care help.
“So qualifying for one of those says to me, you probably qualify for this when the threshold is $93,000,” the governor said. “They’ve already given the information. The families already, we already know who they are. And they shouldn’t have to go through the application process multiple times. So we’ll make a change.”
That should ease the way, Hochul said, to add roughly another 83,400 eligible families to the rolls.
On top of all that, Hochul is also looking to cap co-pays at one percent of a family’s income above the federal poverty level.
In order to enact these changes to New York’s child care system, Hochul will have to work with the state Senate and Assembly to pass legislation, something she said she’s “confident, they’re all on the same page” about.
State Senator Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx), who was in attendance Wednesday, will be one of the lawmakers pushing for that legislation. He said the changes Hochul put forth will make a big difference in the lives of his South Bronx constituents.
“I probably represent now the poorest senatorial district in New York State,” Sepúlveda said. “It’s no secret that our children have the lowest graduation rates in the entire state of New York. It’s no secret that my colleagues in government are working to improve that. But Governor, what you have done is accelerated that process.”