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Memorandum of Support

Empire Justice Supports Bill to Provide Parents Time to Plan When they Lose Child Care Assistance


This bill requires that social services districts notify the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) 90 days before the effective date of a planned reduction in eligibility or increase in co-payments for child care assistance.  OCFS, in turn, will be required to post notice of the proposed change on its website within 10 days and within 30 days notify child care providers, the state Child Care Resource and Referral organization (CCR&R), and local CCR&R organizations that serve the Social Services District.  Providers and CCR&Rs are then asked to post the information so that parents are aware of the changes and can assess the impact on their household and act accordingly.

The Empire Justice Center strongly supports A.509/S.819, which would amend §34-a of the Social Services Law to add a new subdivision 9 which incorporates the 90 day notice requirement.

This bill provides a simple and cost-effective way to ensure that parents and providers are made aware of critical financial decisions made by the counties that will impact their household budgets and business income so that they have time to develop a plan  to respond to this loss of financial assistance.

Currently, State regulations require that only 10 days notice be given for a reduction or discontinuance of social services benefits.  This 10 day notice provision generally applies when the recipient has a change in income.  This exceedingly limited timeframe does not make sense for dramatic changes in child care eligibility levels or co-payment multipliers that are made across an entire social services district and affect hundreds of families.  Since counties receive their subsidy funding annually, it is more than reasonable to expect that they will be able to project the number of families that can be served 90 days in advance.  To make the process as easy as possible for the counties, the bill is drafted in such a way that notification can take place while the social services district is in the process of getting approval from OCFS for its state plan amendment. 

This bill is particularly critical at this point in time.  Child care is usually the most burdensome household cost for families, more than rent or mortgage payments. [1]  As a result, for low income working parents, loss of a subsidy or an increase in co-payments without adequate notification can have severe repercussions not only for families, but for daycare providers and businesses placed at risk of losing employees. 

With the recent increase in market rates, and a decline in federal funding, it is very likely that more low-income working families will face increased co-payments or complete loss of their child care subsidies in the near future.  Ten days is simply not sufficient time to make necessary alternative arrangements. 

Without ample notification, many families, like those in Erie County, which recently cut 1500 child care subsidies with only 10 days notice, have no time to plan for such a dramatic financial loss, and have had to make choices that are not in the best interest of their families such as quitting their jobs or placing their children in child care that is unreliable or unregulated. [2]  Without time to make arrangements for their children, some of these parents have ended up relying on welfare benefits as a direct result of these cuts. The same thing happened in Steuben County in late 2009. [3]  More recently, parents in Rensselaer County received 9 days notice that subsidy eligibility levels were being reduced.  Co-payments were raised in Chautauqua County at the end of January, and in Westchester County in June 2010.

For these reasons, Empire Justice Center strongly supports this legislation and urges immediate passage of A.509/S.819.  Requiring adequate notice would allow families losing critical economic support to plan for the significant challenges they are sure to face when their subsidy is taken away or when their co-payment increases.

End Notes:
[1] D. Pearce, “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York State,” 2010, available online at www.fiscalpolicy.org.  Appendix C documents the cost of living in every county of the state. Consistently, child care costs are significantly higher than housing costs. See also Westchester County Board of Legislators. Martin, Tara L, Director of Communications, “Westchester Lawmakers Vow to Fight Country Executive’s Child Care Cuts,” (April 5, 2010) available at www,weschesterlegislators.com.
[2] See Spina, Matthew, “Day care issue is a game of numbers: Welfare route called cheaper by county,” Buffalo News (January 31, 2010).
[3] See “County should cover day care shortfall,” The Corning Leader (September 1, 2009) available at: http://www.the-leader.com/opinions/editorials/x1991351346/County-should-cover-day-care-shortfall.

This memo was prepared by:


Susan C. Antos

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 


(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852
santos@empirejustice.org

03/15/11