(White Plains, NY) -- In an effort to protect child care subsidies for low-income families, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) approved new legislation and two resolutions tonight aimed at stopping County Executive Robert P. Astorino and the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS) from increasing the family contribution to daycare expense from 20% to 35% of the portion of income that exceeds the federal poverty level.
The first resolution requests that New York State Social Services Law and Regulations be amended to require approval by the BOL prior to any request to New York State for a change in the County Consolidated Services Plan regarding the parental share rate for day care services. The second resolution informs the New York State Office of Children and Family Services that the BOL opposes the DSS request to increase the family share of child care subsidy to 35%.
The new legislation simply requires DSS to obtain BOL authorization before requesting a change in family share percentage of the child care subsidies.
All three votes occurred at the BOL’s regular meeting.
“We will continue to protect these child care subsidies because they are right for Westchester,” said Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), chair of the BOL’s Community Services Committee. “Any increases in costs can be handled through ordinary budget transfers within this department that take place at the end of the year. The idea of subjecting hard-working families to additional and onerous costs is both mean-spirited and wrong.”
The increase in family share for daycare, amounting to over $1,400 per family, would mostly affect working mothers making an average of $30,000 a year.
Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations Committee, remarked that the legislators were still disappointed by the surprise decision two weeks ago by Astorino and DSS to increase the family contribution to the daycare funding from 20% to 35% after earlier agreeing to provide a full financial analysis of 2012’s first quarter child care costs to the BOL before proposing any changes.
“This simply erodes people’s faith and trust in government when public servants and elected officials cannot keep their word,” said Myers, who helped lead the fight in December 2011 to restore $4.3 million of child care subsidies for low-income workers into the 2012 County Budget after Astorino had initially cut it. The subsidy programs are designed for mostly working mothers who are near the poverty level to stay in the workforce and contribute to the local economy—while paying their bills and providing for their families.
At today’s meeting of the BOL Community Services Committee, Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said that it was important to see child care in terms of broader societal consequences.
“When there are inadequacies, it directly affects early education and also presents public safety risks,” remarked Borgia.
Legislator Williams again reminded the committee that when the County raised the parent share to 33% a few years ago, many families were forced to drop out of the child care program and rely on unlicensed providers instead.
The entire BOL Republican caucus—Minority Leader Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle), Minority Whip Gordon Burrows (R-Yonkers) and Legislators Bernice Spreckman (R-Yonkers), David Gelfarb (R-Rye Brook), John Testa (R-Peekskill), Michael Smith (R-Valhalla) and Sheila Marcotte (R-Tuckahoe)—all voted in lock-step against the three legislative items—and against hard-working Westchester residents as well.