MAYVILLE – Childcare availability is likely playing a big role in getting people back to work following last year’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chautauqua County.
That’s according to Beth Starks, Assistant SUNY JCC Professor and Early Childhood Education Coordinator, who says access to childcare services are vital in the return to normalcy.
“We have so many rural areas here where there aren’t centers,” said Starks. “It is important that we establish more in-home providers and also have options for second-shift care and overnight care.”
In addition to the rural areas of Chautauqua County, she says the City of Dunkirk also falls behind in childcare availability.
Starks says the $2.2 Billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan allocated in the state’s budget this year could be used to create new centers to fill those gaps.
She explains out of the box thinking, like encouraging businesses to offer childcare on site could also be another solution.
“If you were to provide childcare as a benefit, you now have tax credit as well,” Starks said.
Like many industries, over the past year weaknesses have surfaced, however Starks says it’s not all bad news.
“I think everyone has really realized the importance of early childhood education,” explained Starks. “You heard it talked about more frequently, and more families are openly discussing more issues with childcare.”
The funding allocated in the state’s budget is also available to help families struggling with childcare affordability.
“I think that people sit down and do the math and if it is better for me and my family, by the time that I have to pay for child care, and transportation, and all of the other issues, if it is better not to be working, then I’m not going to work,” explained Starks. “So, what we have to do if we are going to look at this from an economic development perspective, then we have to remove those barriers.”
Stark says if you need assistance with childcare, the first step to take is contacting the Chautauqua Childcare Council at 1-800-424-4532 or visit ChautauquaOpportunities.com/chautauqua-child-care-council.