Essential Workers in NY Can Now Apply for Childcare Scholarships

by Maurie Backman | Published on July 12, 2021

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Female medical professional hugging young child.

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Some of New York's essential workers may be in line for a financial lifeline.

There's a reason so many jobless workers have struggled to get back into the labor force in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have lacked access to affordable childcare options.

Normally, school serves as a form of childcare for parents who work full-time. And while the typical full-time worker may put in more hours on the job than what the school day covers, it's generally possible to tack on care before or after school, since that is substantially less than the cost of full-time care.

But this past year, in many parts of the country, things weren't business as usual on the school front. In fact, a lot of schools never managed to open full-time for in-person learning throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. And that, in turn, has kept a lot of people from being able to work full-time. And it may have prompted some jobless workers to stay on unemployment benefits.

New York recognizes that childcare may be an impediment to some people getting back to work, or staying in the labor force. And now, it's rolling out a program that could relieve that burden in a very big way.

Essential workers can get some help

Essential workers in New York can apply for childcare scholarships to help offset the cost of having their kids looked after so they can hold down a job. Workers whose income is less than 300% of the federal poverty level (which translates to $79,500 for a family of four) can apply to have their childcare expenses covered for children who are six weeks to 12 years old.

Essential workers include:

  • First responders
  • Healthcare providers
  • Law enforcement agents
  • Transportation workers
  • Food delivery workers
  • Grocery store employees

All told, there's $25 million in funds to go around for childcare assistance in New York, and those interested in applying can access the state's Office of Children and Family Services for more information.

Will childcare aid help address labor shortages?

Some industries are having a hard time finding workers, which is hindering their economic recovery. Restaurants, for example, have struggled to hire as operating restrictions have been lifted, and some lawmakers are convinced that higher unemployment benefits are the reason for that.

The American Rescue Plan, which put $1,400 stimulus into Americans' bank accounts, boosted unemployment benefits by $300 a week through early September. At this point, 26 states have announced that this aid will end ahead of that expiration date. But the reason those states pulled that aid is because some lawmakers believe boosted benefits stopped people from going back to work, since doing so could, in many cases, mean taking a pay cut.

But childcare issues have also kept a lot of people from returning to the labor force. Now, unemployed essential workers in New York may have an easier time getting back to a job.

Of course, the aforementioned aid isn't earmarked for the unemployed -- it's available to eligible essential workers who pay for childcare. But the fact that it exists could help businesses in need of staff add to their ranks.

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