Working families are the backbone of our state.
I am proud to say that the Assembly Majority has a long history of taking actions that put families first. The middle-class tax cut, increasing the minimum wage, pushing for greater investments in education and early education, being just some of our more recent and successful efforts.
Every day, in every region of our state, working parents and parents who want and need to work - predominantly women - are forced to choose between caring for their families and taking or keeping the jobs they need to pay for rent, food, utilities and the list goes on and on.
While it is a fact that there are more private-sector jobs in our state than ever before, it is also a fact that there is a child-care crisis in New York.
We have heard from working families who are finding it nearly impossible to locate secure, quality, affordable child care and elder care, and these families are pleading for action and relief. To that end, I formed the New York State Child Care Workgroup on May 6th of 2013, and directed it to study the crisis and make recommendations for addressing it.
The members of the Workgroup are:
The Workgroup held a series of roundtables with child-care and social welfare advocates, child-care program representatives, and members of the economic development community, and issued a comprehensive report which is available through the Assembly's web page.
We have placed these recommendations into legislation - 15 bills in all - and they are detailed in the press releases you will receive shortly.
These bills, which would:
I should point out that we are joined by a number of distinguished child-care advocates and we thank them for the leadership and their contributions to the Workgroup report.
Before I turn the podium over to the members of our Workgroup, let me make a few quick points.
First, the availability of state and federal subsidies that help manage the cost of child care for low-income families has decreased or remained flat while the need for this care has risen.
Over 234,000 New York State children received child care subsidies in 2012, but this number does not reflect the need for these subsidies.
Second, the Federal Family Medical Leave Act provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick relative, but most employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
Our bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Nolan, would allow workers to maintain employment and still receive some income while on leave to care for an elderly relative, to manage a medical emergency or to bond with a newborn or adopted child.
Third, we're not talking about babysitting here. We want state-funded child-care programs to be high-quality early education programs, the first big step our children take on the road to long-term academic achievement.
To quote James Heckman, the Noble-prize-winning economist and expert on early education, "Investing early allows us to shape the future; investing later chains us to fixing the missed opportunities of the past."
Fourth and finally, according to the economic development community and the researchers we have heard from, the lack of affordable child care hampers productivity which, in turn, negatively affects local economies.
As I said earlier, this is a multi-faceted, comprehensive plan meant to address a very serious issue in communities throughout our state.
We urge the Governor and our colleagues in the Senate to look at this issue, look at our plan, and help us to help parents to work and to thrive.