Gov. Hochul puts spotlight on New York child care accessibility plans following State of the State speech

ALBANY — A day after laying out her policy goals for the state, Gov. Hochul touted plans to make child care more accessible and affordable for New York families.

The governor visited an early education classroom in the Bronx on Wednesday before highlighting her administration’s goals of making the state’s child care system more efficient.

Hochul said that while $7 billion was allotted in last year’s state budget to help bolster New York’s child care system over the next four years, only a small percentage of eligible families are taking advantage of available assistance.

“Here’s the crazy thing: The money’s there, the programs are there, but families aren’t accessing it,” the governor said during an event at the Bronx Children’s Museum. “You have to ask why.

“Part of it is a legacy of a system that was set up to be difficult to navigate. And I don’t know if that’s by design. But that’s just not OK with me,” she added.

In order to help make the system more accessible, Hochul is proposing several changes, including allowing families to prescreen for eligibility online and making those who are already receiving other state benefits automatically qualify.

According to the governor’s office, more than half of child care assistance applications are determined to be incomplete and sent back to families. Sometimes, families must repeat the process multiple times.

To streamline the process, the governor wants to centralize the application for child care assistance, which is now handled by local governments, and create one online application option for the entire state.

Hochul also wants to create expedited enrollment for families receiving benefits that already prove income eligibility like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“I mean, you’re not trying to start a bank or something,” Hochul said. “You’re just trying to apply for child care and simplify all the documentation.”

Additionally, Hochul wants to expand eligibility to the maximum income allowed under federal law. The cap for a family of four, now at about $83,000 a year, would be raised to $93,000 a year. Raising the income caps for different-sized families make roughly 113,000 more families eligible for child care benefits, according to the governor.

Another part of the plan would establish a pilot program to examine the benefits of dividing cost of child care equally between employees, their employer and the state.

Hochul’s team is also eyeing a new business income tax credit for employers that create or expand child care access for employees.

The governor’s push falls short of calls for universal child care, something that many of Hochul’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature support.

The Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus argued in favor of including billions for child care for all in the state budget in a policy proposal shared with the Daily News last month.

“Although some piecemeal approaches and temporary solutions have kept New York’s child care system on life support, many child care centers have already been forced to close, and parents are struggling to access the childcare they need,” the coalition of lawmakers wrote.

While progressives in both chambers have called on the governor to embrace raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to offset the cost of establishing a universal child care system, Hochul made no mention of increasing taxes during her State of the State address.