Thirty-four years ago, I never dreamed I’d have to quit my job due to a lack of affordable child care. But I did, and sadly, that’s still the reality for many working parents today.
As the first mother to lead New York state as governor, this issue is personal for me. Over three decades ago, I had a job working for former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But like so many young professionals wanting to start a family, I struggled to find child care and, eventually, made the tough decision to leave my job. My story is not the only one.
For too long, child care has been relegated as the family’s—or usually the mother’s—concern. As the pandemic, inflation, and other factors drive up everyday costs like housing and gas prices, the rising cost of child care is putting an enormous strain on families in New York and across the country.
Parents are leaving the workforce in droves due to a lack of affordable child care. Women are quitting their jobs at disproportionately high rates.
The pandemic helped change the conversation, showing that child care is a smart investment for businesses that raises productivity, quality of life and retention among employees. Child care is now being seen as an essential service for employees.
Here in New York, we are already working ahead of the curve to find creative solutions, bringing businesses to the table to expand child-care options for working families. We are also seeing welcome momentum at the federal level.
Recently, President Joe Biden and the Department of Commerce announced that businesses receiving subsidies through the federal CHIPS and Science Act will need to provide quality, affordable child care to their workers. This is a welcome announcement, and will ensure that companies at the cutting-edge of technology and driving our economy will have a federal incentive to support working parents.
New York Initiatives
In our state, we are making a four-year, $7 billion investment in child care access to help provide the neediest families with support.
New York is already proactively taking steps to bring businesses to the table. As part of the landmark deal to bring Micron, a global semiconductor manufacturer, to central New York, we secured a commitment from them to invest $500,000 in the YMCA of Central New York to expand high-quality child care options and early learning to the local community.
We’ve put forth innovative proposals to establish a New York State Employer-Supported Child Care pilot program to lower costs for families by splitting the cost of care between the employer, employee, and the state. We are also helping businesses better support their employees’ child-care needs, thanks to our one-of-a-kind Business Navigator proposal and plans to develop a statewide employer child-care guidebook.
Additionally, with our proposal to establish a Child Care Creation and Expansion Tax Credit, we are going even further to help businesses extend a lifeline to their workers and treat child care like any other employee benefit.
Under our plan, businesses that create new child-care seats or expand existing child care to add new seats would be eligible for state tax credits. That could mean building new child-care facilities near offices or job sites, working with existing child-care providers to add capacity at an affordable cost for workers, direct assistance to subsidize workers’ child-care costs or other measures to put this crucial benefit within reach for New Yorkers.
This program will be transformational for our businesses and workers. As our state and much of the nation deals with an ongoing labor shortage, employers that offer child-care benefits will become the most competitive and the best able to attract workers.
Expanding child-care options will also help parents reenter the workforce after many were forced to quit their jobs due to parenting needs. Workers and their families will have greater economic stability as parents return to work and there are better child-care options to choose from.
Indirectly, the program would provide a boost to the child-care industry, which has long operated on slim margins, unable to cover the enormous costs of providing quality care, including living wages to the staff educating and caring for our children.
But we cannot stop there. If we really want to empower parents to stay in the workforce, we need nationwide paid family leave, like what we have successfully built and expanded in New York. With costs rising, benefits like the expanded child tax credit should be made permanent. It’s time we made the economy one that works for everyone, including working families.
By investing in child care, businesses are investing in their long-term success. New York is here to help, and we will continue working alongside our federal partners to find create ways to deliver this essential service to more working families.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
Kathy Hochul is the 57th and first female governor of New York state.