February 15, 2022
SCHUYLERVILLE — Nothing gives working parents peace of mind like knowing their child is in the hands of a trusted caregiver, which is why I am working to expand child care options for hardworking families in the north country. After all, finding the right child care provider is critical to fostering children’s healthy development and preparing them for success in the classroom and beyond.
Child care is not only important for parents, but it is also critical for employers across our region as they work to recruit and retain their workforce in today’s challenging economy. For businesses seeking to hire, attracting and retaining working parents often depends on having reliable care options in the community. Yet in many parts of the north country, the number of young children far outpaces the number of child care slots available.
In order to equip more north country parents with trusted care options for their children, we must increase the number of child care providers serving our communities by effectively recruiting and supporting family child care providers.
Family child care — provided to a small group of children in a home-based setting — can offer convenience for parents seeking care in their neighborhood. In rural communities, small home-based providers operate where center-based child care isn’t an option and often meet the needs of parents who work non-traditional hours.
This can also be the optimal learning environment for some children by fostering healthy development through a consistent caregiver. But these businesses are often operated by single providers who generate modest revenue and face challenges in balancing the responsibilities of both business owner and caregiver.
Even prior to the pandemic, the number of family child care providers has been in steep decline, diminishing the supply of child care and the options for working parents. To reverse this trend, I introduced the Family Child Care Networks Act, which would expand innovative networks aimed at increasing the supply of family child care providers in underserved communities.
Effective family child care networks offer a variety of services to local home-based providers that can reduce the costs and administrative burden of running a child care small business, helping caregivers stay in business and allowing them to focus on the families they serve. Networks established through this legislation would offer start-up grants and technical assistance in navigating the licensing process, so more caregivers can start their own businesses and begin offering care to families in their neighborhoods.
Lowering barriers to entry and making operating family child care both financially viable and personally sustainable will enhance the supply of care options in rural communities across the north country.
Additionally, I co-sponsored the Working Families Child Care Access Act to empower employers to help their workers cover the cost of child care. Specifically, this would improve dependent care flexible spending accounts by tripling the annual contribution limit and allowing parents to roll over unused child care funds year to year without penalty. This will enable working families to use more of their pre-tax dollars to pay for child care expenses while strengthening an important tool that employers can offer their workers to tackle the costs of raising a family.
I know many of our servicemembers and military families also face unique child care needs, and I have been working to secure care for their families as they serve our country. In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022, I worked to include a provision to expand the in-home child care pilot program by providing financial assistance for in-home child care.
I am also working to ensure our military families are receiving the best care so they can have peace of mind that their children are in good hands. By including a provision to direct service secretaries to conduct inspections of all child development centers, they will be able to better identify unresolved safety issues.
As I focus on delivering locally driven solutions for working families in our region, Democrats continue pushing a Washington takeover of the child care system in their so-called Build Back Better Act that will increase costs for middle class families and drive family- and faith-based providers out of the marketplace. This would be devastating for the north country’s working parents who rely on these services.
Parents know what child care setting is right for their children. They don’t need federal bureaucrats making those important decisions for them.
To make matters worse, analysts found that the child care provisions in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda would actually raise the cost of care for middle class families by $13,000 a year while exacerbating the workforce shortage by incentivizing some parents to drop out of the workforce in order to qualify for the newly created subsidies. North country families simply cannot afford higher costs and fewer child care options.
That’s why I will continue to advocate for innovative approaches that expand care options in our rural communities and increase business engagement in developing child care solutions for their workforce.
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