City-Subsidized Day Care Centers Struggle With a New Expense
From Oct. 1, city-subsidized child care centers will have to pay the health insurance costs of their employees, El Diario La Prensa reported. At Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation in Brooklyn, as at many other centers, administrators are scrambling to figure out how to pay these additional costs, with budgets already stretched thin as they struggle to provide services to low-income families. The article is translated from Spanish below.
New York’s day care centers are preparing for a battle after receiving notice of the budget cuts that the Bloomberg administration has proposed for the 2012-2013 school year.
Starting Oct. 1, day care centers and preschools that receive city subsidies will have to pay for their employees’ health insurance.
María Contreras-Collier said that worrying about how to balance the budget of the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation has kept her up at night. The center that Contreras-Collier runs in Brooklyn will have to pay for the health care costs of its 21 employees. As compensation, the city will reimburse the center with $41.16 for each of the 72 children that attend the school, but only on the condition that they are absent for no more than 10 days.
Even if the center maintains a good attendance record, Contreras-Collier said the other problem is that not counting salaries, rent, and the utility bill, “the money barely covers 25 percent of the employees’ health care policy.” But her workers, many of whom “earn up to $20,000 a year,” can’t be left unprotected.
Who Will Pay?
Nearly 85 percent of the children that attend this day care center in Cypress Hills come from low-income Latino families. Their parents can’t miss work to take care of them.
“The city tells me the solution is to open up a private day care center, but who in this community has the money to pay for that?” explained Contreras-Collier. “Not even our directors have enough resources to be so generous.”
Conteras-Collier’s center is the second most important in the area after St. Malachy’s. The two schools combined offer 400 spots in early childhood education.
To meet the city’s requirement, Cypress Hills is running at a deficit of almost $180,000. “That’s not considering that our budget hasn’t increased since 1999, and our employees haven’t received a raise in six years,” said Contreras-Collier.
The anxiety that permeates the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation is common at other early childhood education centers. On Sept. 4, directors will have to accept the city’s plan in order to continue operating. Most child care centers are ready to fight for a raise in the amount of reimbursement for each child that they would receive in exchange for complying with the new rule.
“The city has been paying for our employees’ health care for over fifty years,” said Gregory Bender, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses, an organization that represents 39 agencies, which together provide child care services to more than 10,000 people.
Close to 42,000 children from low-income families benefit from city-subsidized day care centers in New York.