Late last week, a group of local government, business, and labor leaders known as the Rochester Community Coalition released its annual Community Agenda. The list spells out what the leaders want from Albany. Much of it should be familiar: a change in the state aid formula for municipalities, money for the Hillside Work-Scholarship program, and funding for some large university projects.
The coalition is also asking for an additional $4 million for child care subsidies, which have been a hot-button issue in the community for a long time. The group has made similar requests in previous years, but this time is asking for a more fundamental change. It'll lobby the state to change how it determines child care subsidy grants to counties, and it wants the state to specifically consider Monroe County's high child-poverty rate in making the allocations.
“We must start thinking about child care subsidies as economic development," said Jennifer Leonard, Rochester Area Community Foundation president and CEO, in a press release. "These dollars employ child care workers and let parents work without compromising their children’s safety. They also support Rochester’s high-quality child care, which will save more than $6 for every $1 we spend today by reducing future costs for jails, welfare, and untapped human capital. Rochester needs sufficient child care if we are ever to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”
But if the formula issue sounds familiar, it's because County Executive Maggie Brooks — a coalition member — talked about it when she introduced her 2015 budget. The budget cut the local contribution to child day care subsidy programs by approximately $400,000, which dropped it to the $4.2 million state minimum.
But Brooks pointed out that Monroe County is required to provide far more local funding than Erie, Onondaga, and Albany counties combined. There's a complicated reason for that, but Brooks said that the state simply needs to provide more funding for a program that it requires the county to offer. And she called on local officials and children's advocates to join her in lobbying Albany to change the formula.
Now may as good a time as any to make this push. In late 2013, Assembly Democrats issued a report that called for an increase in child care funding.