New York City, NY (September 21 2023) – Elected officials, parents, providers, and advocate leaders gathered today at City Hall to call for Universal Child Care in New York City as childcare costs skyrocket for working and middle class families. Mayor Adams’ cuts to free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and consistent delays in paying city-funded day care providers have worsened the childcare affordability crisis, and a recent Siena poll found 81% of New York City voters now call the City’s cost of living a major problem. Afterwards, the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, chaired by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, heard the legislation drafted by Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez and Kevin Riley and heard testimony from City officials and members of the public.
UCCinNYC (Intro 941-2023), introduced in March, would require the City to establish free, high-quality childcare for all children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, regardless of immigration status.
While the numerous agencies that license and oversee child care facilities are addressed by the bill, only the new Mayor’s Office of Child Care was in attendance, with Dr. Michelle Paige and the sole two other employees at the Office testifying.
Dr. Paige discussed the Office’s efforts to bolster the child care industry and assist agencies dedicated to child care in a convening capacity. Dr. Paige’s extensive knowledge enabled her to address certain questions posed by the committee, but the Office was unable to provide data and many basic answers, including the number of child care providers in NYC, addressing waitlists and reconfiguring supply to meet demand, or how many locations that were given tax breaks are still vacant. Many of the Committee’s questions regarding licensing, oversight, or institutional processes were referred to other agencies not in attendance, highlighting the need for a single entity to oversee this complicated and disjointed system.
The hearing revealed that the City’s approach to child care coordination, through the Office of Child Care, has produced a competent, experienced team with insufficient resources and guidance provided as to the Office’s mandate and future responsibilities. So far, the Office has been unable to comprehensively respond to or provide solutions for the crisis across New York City’s child care economy. Dr. Paige listed the numerous agencies responsible for compliance, oversight and monitoring, underscoring the urgent need for enhanced support and coordination to expedite the establishment of new child care facilities and address months-long family waitlists. Chair Cabán repeatedly expressed concerns that the Administration’s proposed PEGs and hiring freeze would expose the child care system to even further precarity, and asked how the City would navigate the existing child care crisis in the face of further budget cuts. The Office of Child Care referred the question to the Department of Education.
“The idea of a free public K-12 education was once seen as radical, but we now know it to be foundational for the success of our communities and economy. Universal child care is no different – and each day that passes without it harms providers, families, and our economy,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “The existing system is deeply flawed, and while the administration’s efforts represent a step in the right direction, they fall short of the comprehensive transformation that is desperately needed by parents, providers, and our economy of care. The bill is a meticulously crafted plan, shaped by the wisdom of advocates and providers who have dedicated decades to this field.”
“Establishing a New York City Office of Child Care to oversee free child care for all city residents is a vital step towards fostering thriving families, stronger communities, and a robust city economy,” said Council Member Kevin C. Riley. “By ensuring accessible and affordable child care for all, we empower parents to pursue their careers and contribute fully to the workforce. This initiative not only supports families’ well-being, but also addresses pay parity for providers, recognizing their invaluable role in early childhood development. Today’s hearing allows for continued advocacy to enforce investments for our Childcare system that provides better pay and benefits for providers, addresses staffing issues, and creates a more culturally-competent means to child care for all New Yorkers. As a father first, and Council Member representing New York families, I am honored to partner with Council Member Gutiérrez, our colleagues, all advocates, educators and families to amplify Intro. 941 and the value of a quality Early Childhood Workforce. Universal child care is ultimately an investment in the future success and prosperity of New York City.”
“For too many District 22 residents, child care is unaffordable. Especially for moms, who are disproportionately tasked with child care, this can mean getting locked out of the workforce and caught in a poverty trap. We need universal child care now,” said Council Member and Chair of the Women & Gender Equity Committee Tiffany Cabán.
“Working families benefit when we make high quality child care universal and affordable to all,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. “Thank you to Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez for your leadership in introducing legislation that will improve and expand child care across the city. This is a significant step to helping working families in our city, and I will continue to work in Congress to ensure child care becomes accessible to all in our country.”
“Universal childcare is essential, and this legislation is crucial because it is first-of-its-kind, and creates specific guidelines to enact the necessary steps that would allow childcare for all. As the parent of a baby girl myself, I’ve seen the challenges and the importance of reliable, affordable childcare up close, and know those challenges are magnified in households across our city. This bill is a key component of making childcare accessible for all New York City residents, regardless of neighborhood, income, or immigration status, and ensuring that providers, who are primarily women of color and immigrants, can be paid a living wage and receive quality benefits,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“Like so many other families, child care is an essential service that my wife and I rely on to make ends meet and provide for our family,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “It’s time for our city to recognize that universal child care is foundational to a thriving, equitable city. Thank you Council Members Gutiérrez and Riley for championing what is right for the parents and families of New York City,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
“Rebuilding New York City’s childcare infrastructure is the key to tackling the affordability crisis. If we figure this out, not only will the city become a place where working families can thrive, but it will also attract talent and new investment. This is equity policy, this is economic development policy, this is public safety policy. I applaud Councilmember Gutierrez for tackling this issue head-on, and will be backing her up from Albany,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens).
ABOUT UCCinNYC (Intro 941)
Intro 941, Universal Child Care in New York City fully reimagines the entire child care industry to ensure equal access and equity for all, with a plan informed by advocates, parents, and providers. Universal Child Care supports not just children and their families, but builds up communities, by creating economic opportunities in areas that have long been disinvested. The lack of Universal Child Care costs NYC $23 billion in lost economic output, and $2.2 billion in tax revenue annually.
The bill would address issues of access, by expanding childcare services on nights and weekends for parents and caregivers who work nontraditional hours. The bill would also support providers by establishing a living wage and benefits for all providers. A certified early childhood educator working at a community-based organization may earn just 53% of what a similarly experienced teacher earns at a public school. The bill also calls for paid training and workforce programs to equitably expand the provider pipeline, and assists providers with opening locations quickly and easily across the city to create more access for underserved communities.