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Challenges for child care providers persist as care affordability increases in Onondaga County

child care assistance
Katie Zilcosky

Onondaga County families who didn’t previously qualify for help paying for child care may now be entitled to it. Earlier this year, the countyexpanded child care assistanceeligibility from incomes up to 275% of the poverty level to 300% of the poverty level. On top of that, they decreased the family share of that child care assistance from up to 35% to just 1%. Director of Early Learning Strategy at Early Childhood Alliance, Megan Wagner-Flynn, explains that means a major cost cut for families.

"If you were earning at the tippy top end of the income bracket, it still lets you receive child care assistance. Your family contribution per year was about $16,000. That's a lot. It's now about $550," Wagner-Flynn said.

Strengthening Our Child Care Workforce As Economic Recovery
Listen to the full City Limits story on how people working in the child care field are juggling a tight labor market and growing demand.

The expansion of the subsidies is part of an ongoing, larger push by local and state governments to strengthen an industry that's currently facing tight labor market and still reeling from pandemic effects. Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year pledged to spend $7 billionon child care over the next four years. Director of the Early Childhood Alliance Laurie Black says it’s great that more families have access to child care, but this will make the need for child care providers even more acute.

"One of the things, the dynamics that [are] happening with the dollars that are coming from the state is, we're making it more affordable for families, so more families can access child care assistance, and so they're gonna be demanding more supply of child care, but yet we still don't have the pipeline of the workforce to fill the classrooms in order to actually meet the demand," Black said.

To meet that need, New York is putting millions of its American Rescue Plan Act funding into programs that aid the child care workforce. This includes $343 million of Child care Stabilization Grants, which are specifically targeted to increase child care provider wages. The application for that program is open until November 5.

This story comes from our City Limits Project. For more on how these state dollars are affecting the child care sector and how providers are fairing in this tight labor market, visit

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.