How a new initiative to address child care deserts in NY could help families and businesses

Parents across New York more than not experience a Catch-22 as a member of the workforce with an infant or toddler — what happens when they can’t find child care while they’re at work — or let alone afford it? Throughout the pandemic — and even before — parents have had to endure hard choices to leave the workforce entirely due to cost of care, especially those who are Black and Latinx. And while more than 60% of New York State is considered a child care desert, sometimes parents don’t even have the option to send their child to a program close by. 

It is clear businesses feel the repercussions of this common child care Catch-22: A majority of business leaders (58%) in New York State say the lack of accessibility and availability of high-quality child care negatively impacts their business. And three in four business leaders (73%) think investment in access to child care for children ages birth-to-3 would have a positive impact on their business, according to a Raising NY statewide poll. 

As New York State focuses on pandemic recovery, it’s critical the state addresses the needs of businesses and parents to meet the increasingly demanding needs of our economy. On April 6, the Business Council of New York State, a Raising NY coalition member, along with The Education Trust–New York and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) hosted a webinar to discuss a new opportunity — Invest in New York – Child Care Deserts Grant — where New York State will award $70 million to providers opening new licensed/registered/permitted child care programs in desert areas. 

Grants will be awarded based on a rating system of whether or not a location an applicant is applying to open a program in is considered a desert, as well as how the location scores on a diversity index based on race and ethnicity (learn more about how grantees will be chosen here). Applicants choosing to open a program in a child care desert with a higher level of racial and ethnic diversity are also more likely to qualify for funding. Grantees will have access to support from OCFS and the Child Care Resource and Referral network through the Early Care and Learning Council. 

OCFS created an interactive map with detailed instructions to explore where child care deserts are located throughout the state that are eligible for funding, which can be useful for parents, potential grantees, and even businesses that are considering expanding or starting up in an area.  

The Raising NY coalition encourages and supports anyone interested in this new opportunity to read over the application requirements and FAQs (also available in other languages), apply, and reach out to the Child Care Deserts Help Line at 844-863-9320 for any questions. Application submissions are due May 19th.