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Onondaga County families could see lower childcare costs

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A combination of state budget aid and local action is expected to make childcare significantly more affordable in Onondaga County. Executive Director of Childcare Solutions Lori Schackow said the 2023 budget more than doubles the state’s current investment in childcare. That money is being used to make more families eligible for the childcare subsidy and increasing reimbursement rates for childcare providers. Schakow said subsidy reimbursement rates were in the 69th percentile, but the state budget increases it to the 80th percentile.

“So this will be a pretty significant increase helping providers to be able to provide better care, quite frankly," said Schakow. "Ideally, a lot of the investment will go towards childcare provider wages so that they can continue to attract high quality staff.”

Syracuse Assemblymember Al Stirpe said the state’s investment in childcare will not only make the cost easier on parents, but it will also help employers and the economy.

“Hopefully, parents can feel secure their kids are going to high quality daycare places, where they’re not just sitting there," said Stirpe. "They’re being entertained and educated. So, hopefully that will get a lot of parents to feel comfortable going back to work.”

Lori Schakow also pointed to Onondaga County lowering its child care copay to 1% as a major factor in making childcare more affordable. Schakow said for the past 15 years, parents eligible for a childcare subsidy would have to pay up to 35% of their income as a copay. Now, at just 1%, working families will have to spend less of their income on childcare.

“The parent share, the parent copay, is the lowest I’ve ever seen it," said Schakow. "I’ve been doing this since the early 1980s. So, this is unprecedented.”

The 1% copay is exclusive to Onondaga County, but Schakow said neighboring counties are also bringing down their copays from 35%.

Other state budget child care items include $340 million in grants that Schakow said will target increasing childcare providers’ salaries, and a $100 million state fund dedicated to helping people open or expand child care centers. The application period for that began Monday.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.
John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.