Yesterday the Mayor announced that by the new first day of school, September 21, the city will have 30,000 free child care spots available to teachers, essential workers and low-income parents.
It’s a good start. When we started campaigning for wrap-around child care two months ago, there were no plans to provide any such support to parents. It’s a gigantic task to scale up a plan to provide child care to tens of thousands of families in just two months. So I’m grateful to the DOE and City employees who swung into gear, and to the child care providers who raced to stand up these programs.
But there’s a very long way to go to get to the 100,000 families that the Mayor committed to serve in the “Learning Bridges” program (which will first prioritize essential workers, teachers and school staff, NYCHA residents and low-income families in neighborhoods impacted by COVID-19). And the need is likely to be far greater than that.
And if you’re a teacher who had to report to work this week, with an elementary school kid of your own, it's already late. (We even heard from one couple in the district, both high school teachers at NYC public schools, with a child in a neighborhood elementary school. They literally needed this program yesterday).
My office was told that the DOE will begin reaching out to families who applied for the Learning Bridges program early next week to start matching families with providers, and will continue on a rolling basis. (If you need childcare help and haven’t applied yet, you can do so here). We don't know how many people applied, but we do know the demand is higher than they will be able to meet immediately. More details about the Learning Bridges program are available here.
If you are a teacher, essential worker, or low-income family in District 39 and need childcare who has applied for Learning Bridges -- email us and we’ll do our best to advocate for you.
For teachers going back to work this week, essential workers who have been relying on REC centers -- and of course for all other working parents, child care is obviously essential.
But we sure haven’t treated it that way.
Child care has been underfunded for decades, leaving an industry made up largely of women of color, operated largely by underfunded nonprofit organizations or women-owned small businesses, struggling with thin margins, high rents, and low pay. Well before the pandemic, families struggled to afford the tens of thousands of dollars that it costs to go to work, cobbling together help from friends and family and still losing job opportunities because childcare was out of reach.
Now, child care providers in NYC and across the country are struggling to stay afloat. The rent remains high, but months of closures have caused revenue to crater. Added costs for cleaning, staffing, and materials, coupled with smaller classes for social distancing are making it nearly impossible for providers to make ends meet.
The Center for American Progress created a helpful calculator to help understand how those new costs are adding up for child care providers, costs that are likely to be passed on to families that need care.
The CARES Act set aside funding for childcare, but in New York State only about half of it has been allocated so far (we have been begging Governor Cuomo to allocate the rest, and today he announced that $86 million will be released). Much more is needed to help stabilize an industry that is critical to getting parents back to work and supporting the next generation to learn and thrive.
We could do this so much better. With encouragement from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden has put forward a plan that would start by providing immediate relief to struggling child care providers across the country. But it would go far beyond that: To provide free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the country. To offer significant new subsidies for low-income families for kids younger than that. To offer tax credits to encourage employers to construct onsite child care facilities. And to boost pay and provide the benefits for child care workers that all workers -- most certainly including those who care for our most precious resource -- deserve.
Like so many of the challenges we are facing, childcare was a large-but-little-seen crisis before the pandemic, now made far more visible and acute. In the (very) short term, we’ve got to keep fighting for the most immediate relief. In the (not so very) long term, we know quite clearly what our families, our economy, and our communities need.
In this email:
Updates and Resources
Updates and Resources
Latest Virus Data: There were 222 new cases identified yesterday, and 8 more New Yorkers died from the virus. We have lost 23,744 people in NYC from the virus, and 236,434 total cases have been identified in the city. Currently, the 7-day rolling average percent of tests that came back positive citywide remains low, 0.8% as of yesterday, although we know that the infection rate varies widely across neighborhoods.
Rapid COVID-19 Testing Expanded: The NYC Department of Health has expanded rapid covid testing to 9 sites. Results should come in under 24 hours, usually the same day. Rapid testing is by appointment only. Visit here for more details and to sign up.
School Updates: The DOE website is up where you can look up your school ventilation report. 10 school buildings were deemed not yet fit for reopening, and 2,800 classrooms (around 4% of classrooms), more details here. As of today, the DOE says 4 of the 10 have been repaired, reinspected and now approved for reopening. The calendar for the 2020-2021 school year is now available here. School bus contracts are now in place and the DOE says there will be 100,000 seats operational by the first day of school, with mandatory masks, social distancing, windows open, and nightly cleaning. Every bus will get PPE and electrostatic sprayers will be provided to every garage. Families will be notified of routes starting today and through the end of the week.
First Test for Schools: Yesterday evening two teachers at P.S. 1 and MS 88 in District 15 received positive covid test results after going into school for the first day back. Teachers were given the option to work from home while the test and trace team followed up with people who may have been exposed to require them to quarantine. We knew that there would be cases, since the virus has not been eradicated, but the real test will be whether the systems are in place to stop it from spreading in schools. We have yet to see still, but hopefully we will see that cases can be caught early and we can stop spread before it happens.
Grab and Go Meals: The Grab-and-Go meals that DOE sites have been distributing to adults and children since the pandemic began will continue at 200 sites after school begins, on a new schedule. Students attending in-person classes will get grab-and-go meals and eat them in classrooms. Students learning remotely will have access to meals at the school buildings closest to them, from 9 am to noon. Adults will be able to pick up meals after school, between 3 to 5 PM.
District 15 Survey: The D15 PAR Project is conducting a community survey by and for families who are impacted by the potential rezoning the elementary schools in Subdistrict 3 of District 15. The NYCDOE is exploring rezoning for seven elementary schools (PS 676, PS 15, PS 32, PS 58, Ps 29, PS 38 and PS 261) in District 15 with potential changes to who has priority to attend each school. If you are zoned for these schools, or if you have a child who currently attends one of these schools, you can learn more and take the survey here.
Lien Sale Postponed: The City has extended the tax lien sale until September 24th, heeding the call of many elected officials to give homeowners more time due to the pandemic. To avoid being included in the lien sale, property owners who owe the city taxes can pay the debt, establish a payment plan, or apply for an exemption that would qualify them for removal from the sale. More information is here. If you need assistance, please contact our office. (In the longer run, we need to come up with a better way of dealing with distressed properties more broadly -- including the proposal I made to use a NYC land bank and models of “social ownership” in The New York Times last week).
Indoor Dining Timeline: Governor Cuomo announced today that indoor dining will be permitted in NYC starting September 30. It will be limited to 25% capacity and restaurant goers will need to do temperature checks and leave behind contact information for contact tracers to follow up if needed.
Request Your Absentee Ballot: You can request your ballot online at nycabsentee.com. Check the box for "Temporary Illness" on the application. The definition has been temporarily expanded to include "a risk of contracting or spreading a disease" such as COVID-19.
Sign Up to Be a Poll Worker: Here in NYC and nationwide we are facing a shortage of poll workers, which may mean fewer poll sites and longer lines. If you are able to take the time during the early voting week or on election day, sign up here to become a paid poll worker.
Reminder to Fill Out Your Census: Fill out your Census at my2020census.gov if you haven’t already and remind your friends and neighbors.
September 10 at 2:00 PM: The Justice in Action conversation series I host with Ruth Messinger is coming back. Tomorrow we will be talking with Senior Advisor to the NYC Schools Chancellor Alison Hirsh and President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten to discuss the realities of the reopening process and how it will impact existing challenges facing students and teachers. Register here.
September 16 at 6:30 PM: The Community Education Council of District 15 is hosting a town hall about school reopening with Chancellor Carranza. Sign up here.
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