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Erie County highlights cost of childcare, will ask state for $20 million in additional funding

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Jan 19, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County and Cornell University partnered to highlight the true cost of childcare.

In Erie County, 2,500 children receive care by way of subsidies.

"The childcare industry is broken,” Director of Buffalo's Cornell office Cathy Creighton said. "Subsidy rates are not adequate to pay for childcare."

Subsidies can vary widely depending on your income. The gap for actual cost of childcare compared to subsidies can range from $2,756 to $5,564 annually.

"This means that providers who educate financially disempowered children and more likely themselves to be financially disempowered," Creighton said.

According to the study, 2/3 of childcare providers in the county said the subsidy rates are not covering their cost of care. Another problem - the study also shows 11% of childcare workers left the job between 2019 and 2020.

“The primary reason for this exodus was the low wages childcare workers are paid," Creighton said.

"My program struggles to pay teachers above minimum wage,” CEO if ABC Learn and Childcare Tiffany Malone said. “With almost all of our employees qualifying for some form of social service assistance."

The county is asking New York State for help in funding childcare facilities. They are asking the state to increase childcare funding by $20 million bringing the new childcare budget to $46 million.

"This is how much money is needed to pay the actual cost of care with increased wages,” Deputy County Executive Maria Whyte said.

"I’m having to decide between private pay families and subsidized families,” CEO of Early Bird Childcare Center Colleen Brecker said. A choice I never used to have to make."

Creighton said the money would be spent on higher salaries for childcare providers and facility improvements.

"The low wages create a workforce strain,” Malone said. “Forcing me to choose between classroom improvements and employee raises."

Childcare providers said increasing subsidy amounts is also essential.

"I would love to experience a childcare infrastructure that shifts us from surviving to thriving,” Malone said.