Access to child daycare services in Warren County has declined by more than 40% since 2019, largely because of the pandemic, according to Liza Ochsendorf, Director of Warren County’s Department of Workforce Development.
“During Covid, subsidies for daycare became more widely available, enabling many families to qualify for assistance for the first time. However, that’s not particularly helpful if there are no vacancies at any of the childcare facilities,” she said.
But thanks to an infusion of federal funds, childcare services are expected to grow for the first time in years.
On July 12, Warren County announced that a $205,000 federal grant, awarded in 2022, is now available to support home-based childcare providers in Warren and Saratoga Counties.
“The funding will cover the costs of training and state licensing, as well as some start-up costs, for residents interested in becoming licensed home-based childcare providers,” said US Senator Chuck Schumer, who included the grant in the 2022 federal omnibus spending package.
According to Ochsendorf, the grant will enable ten new businesses to open in each county.
“We have budgeted about $5,000 for each of the 20 new businesses,” she said. “Some providers may need less than that. Others may need more. We will make certain they have what they need, including additional training.”
Applications from Warren County residents interested in participating in the program will be reviewed by the Southern Adirondack Child Care Network in Warren County, which will also facilitate the training programs mandated by the New York State Office of Child and Family Services.
“This is a great opportunity for informal childcare providers to get trained at no cost and to upgrade their services to become a licensed business,” said Ochsendorf, who said the grant will also be used to purchase equipment and supplies for the providers,
With more home-based childcare providers operating in Warren County, more parents will return to the workforce and the regional economy will grow as a consequence, officials say.
Liza Ochsendorf said the lack of child care providers contributed to the county’s eroding labor pool.
“Having enough childcare providers is critical not only to the working families of Warren County, but to the businesses who need a reliable workforce. These things are interconnected. Childcare is crucial to our economy,” said Ochsendorf.
According to Ochsendorf, the lack of childcare is the third largest impediment to job growth in Warren County, the other two being the lack of available, affordable housing and reliable transportation.
“That’s why we wanted to get involved with this issue,” said Ochsendorf. “We’re helping businesses whose workers need childcare and we’re helping people start businesses.”
The federal funds will be supplemented by $112,500 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, awarded by the Warren County Board of Supervisors to Southern Adirondack Child Care Network.
The organization will use the funds to open 15 new home-based childcare businesses.
Ochsendorf said Warren County’s Department of Workforce Development will also work with the private sector to create “a childcare sustainability fund” to support providers with financial assistance once the federal funds have been spent.
“To recruit more providers is one thing; to sustain them is another,” said Ochsendorf. “The providers have costs that cannot be passed onto the working families. This new fund will sustain childcare in Warren County long after this federal grant has been expended.”
Ochsendorf said she hoped to raise $25,000 per year from local businesses, which are expected to benefit from the restoration of reliable childcare services.
Ochsendorf said the childcare system in Warren County was frayed even before the pandemic, which just exacerbated conditions.
Nevertheless, said Queensbury Supervisor John Strough, “These federal funds mark the start of the expansion of childcare in Warren County.”
“But we are just at the beginning,” Strough added.
Warren County residents interested in participating in the funding program can call Warren County Career Center at 518-743-0925 or Southern Adirondack Child Care Network at 518-798-7972.
“This is a great opportunity for informal childcare providers to be trained for free and to upgrade their services to become a licensed business. This funding may also appeal to stay-at-home parents, educators, or anyone looking for a career change who has a passion for helping children,” said Liza Ochsendorf.