NEW YORK—The children who rely on the city to help fund their day care or after-school programs have come to City Hall over the last several weeks with a simple request—please don’t cut our funds. Unfortunately kids, it’s not that easy.
City Council is currently working to restore cuts in funding to the New York City Administration for Children Services (ACS) in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, which they must finalize by June 30.
To complicate matters, ACS created a new program, EarlyLearn NYC, which must be funded in the new budget.
It will not begin with the new fiscal year on July 1 and not all the providers under the old system were awarded new EarlyLearn contracts.
The new program, which ACS says will help improve the quality of child care in the city, will not begin until Oct. 1. This leaves a three-month gap between when contracts funded by the fiscal year 2012 budget and contracts under the new EarlyLearn NYC will take effect.
To ensure no lag in child care for those in need, ACS will have to issue contract extensions for those three months to providers regardless of whether they have EarlyLearn contracts or not. With two weeks left until providers’ current contracts are up, not all the extensions have been approved by the city comptroller’s office.
“To date, the Comptroller’s Office has received 35 contract extensions from ACS and expects to receive nearly 200 more before the looming expiration deadline. In order to ensure stability in child care for more than 40,000 children throughout the city, Comptroller Liu’s Bureau of Contract Administration will work to swiftly register these extensions,” read a statement from the city comptroller’s office.
Maria Contreras-Collier, Director of Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation is unclear on the contract extensions.
“We have a contract extension through October 1, but the contract has a caveat that says if the City Council funds this, or makes funding available, then you will get the extension. So yes, I have a contract that says I have funds through October 1, but it also has a caveat that says if the City Council does not fund this, then you don’t have it,” she said.
Contreras-Collier said without the contract extension her center, which was awarded an EarlyLearn contract, would not have the money to operate and would be forced to close until the EarlyLearn contract started on Oct. 1.
She said she has faith the City Council will do everything it can to keep the program funded, “But I also know that there is a very limited pool of dollars and the city keeps putting more and more pressure on the City Council to approve this.”
ACS issued this statement: “The Administration for Children’s Services is extending the current child care contracts to ensure a smooth transition to EarlyLearn NYC, which begins Oct. 1, 2012.”
A spokesperson could not verify on record where the funding would come from or if City Council would need to approve any funding to validate the contract extensions. They were, however, certain all children would continue to receive care until EarlyLearn goes into effect on October 1.
The children at Bethel Day Care Center in Brooklyn, will not be one of those worrying about contract extensions, as they are one of six centers in the city whose funding runs out on June 30 regardless of the budget or EarlyLearn.
Thanks to City Council members, especially Stephen Levin, Bethel was spared being cut for the previous two years, but was told fiscal year 2012 would be the last. Joan Morris, owner of the center, applied for an EarlyLearn contract, but was denied, leaving the parents who take their children to Bethel Day Care Center without a place for their children.“It’s awful. I don’t know what I am going to do. We commute from Park Slope just to get affordable care,” said Siobhann, who asked her last name not be used. “For now, she is going to have to stay home with grandma, but then the learning is going to stop.
Siobhann is like many of the other parents who have not been able to find an open slot for their children anywhere.
“It is important. We need somewhere for our babies to go. They are not learning anything at home. It is very important for us to have an outlet for them,” said Tamika Hill. Her son will go to public school in the fall but will be forced to stay at home during the summer.
For kids, the answer always seems to be simple, “I need it to stay because my mother works, my aunt works, and my grandma works. Nobody can pick me up at 2:20 p.m.,” Brianna, a child care recipient said in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday.
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