Schenectady County day care aid trim will hit single mothers
State finances squeeze county
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Like many single, working mothers, Kelly Miles finds herself struggling to make ends meet in the down economy.
The Schenectady resident supports two children — ages 6 and 11 — on her modest salary from a full-time job at the Center for Disability Services. When her kids finish school on weekdays, she relies on a local day care provider for a couple hours until she finishes work in the late afternoon.
But those hours don’t come cheap. The cost for both children to attend day care part-time would ordinarily run nearly $200 per week — which Miles simply can’t afford.
For years, she’s relied on child care subsidies from the Schenectady County Department of Social Services to roughly halve her out-of-pocket cost. The program is largely funded by the state, with a contribution from the county, which has also relied on money from the Workforce Development Institute.
Now the institute, a nonprofit organization also funded by the state, no longer receives the funding it was once getting to assist the child care subsidy. And with less funding coming in to the county, dozens of families are now finding the help they’ve relied on is coming to an end this month.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Miles, who is among the 59 families in the county about to lose the subsidy.
New York provided about $5 million in child-care funding to Schenectady County in 2012. The county added $950,000 to this line, which remained level-funded in the 2013 budget.
County spokesman Joe McQueen said it doesn’t appear the institute funding will be coming in, meaning any family making more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level will no longer receive the subsidy.
In Schenectady County, a family of four making 150 percent of the poverty level would earn about $34,575. A family of four earning 200 percent of the county’s poverty level — the threshold no longer covered by the subsidy as of next year — would earn $46,100, according to figures provided by the institute.
Schenectady County was among five upstate counties included in the institute’s subsidized child-care program launched in 2006. The state-subsidized initiative helped boost the eligibility ceiling for subsidized child care assistance to 275 percent of the poverty level; at the time, the county income threshold was 200 percent.
Over the course of five years, the program helped 601 families in the county, according to a 2011 evaluation report produced by the institute. But last year, county officials feared they would need to start picking up a greater part of the cost and stopped enrolling new families. Simultaneously, the income threshold dropped to 150 percent of the poverty level.
McQueen said this drop and the inability to compensate for the funding lost from the institute is a reflection of the county’s tight fiscal situation.
“There just wasn’t the money there to add it in,” he said.
McQueen said the unfortunate reality is that the child-care subsidy is part of the county’s discretionary spending, which accounts for about 26 percent of the budget. With state mandates increasing and revenues decreasing, he said the only option is to make unpopular cuts.
That’s not a reality a working mother can accept, Miles lamented. Since learning of the end to her subsidy, she’s contacted state and federal politicians in hopes of saving the subsidy.
The alternatives are bleak, since Miles doesn’t have anyone to care for her kids before she gets home. She may have to take a pay cut to leave work early to pick up her children — and that’s only if she’s allowed.
“I could lose my job,” she said.