The Child Care Gap

How the Price of Child Care Impacts
"The Deal" of Living in Nassau County

Before We Begin, A Message About COVID-19

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event that has upended day-to-day life for all of us, creating new fears and presenting new challenges. In early 2020, the Policy and Research Unit of the Nassau County Comptroller’s Office had begun to put together a report on impact of the price of child care on our local economy. With COVID-19 exacerbating this challenge, and even shedding light on how dependent many families already were on our education system to effectively serve as child care, the critical look the Policy and Research unit took and the solutions presented are even more relevant. The challenge has put child care providers on the frontlines of the crisis for health care providers, critical laborers, essential workers and families, and thus it is even more crucial to highlight this need.

A COVID-19 Update: Fall 2020

Since the release of this report, COVID-19 has continued to disrupt the US economy and the day-to-day lives of millions of Americans. The consequences of low-paying wages for child care workers; moving from in-office work to work-from-home; social distancing requirements for child care facilities; and general uncertainty of the duration of the pandemic has further exacerbated the child care challenges in our region.
To that end, let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 has impacted child care.

The Economic Impact

A July 2020 study by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found 40% of child care facilities would close without government assistance, including more than half of those owned by people of color. Only about 40,000 of the nation’s 670,000 child care businesses received PPP loans to keep their workers on staff and facilities open.
Between 10-20% of child care facilities remained closed due to lockdown measures or lack of staffing as of July 2020, and those that remained open had lower enrollment and higher operating costs to enforce social distancing and cleaning. Of those which remained open, 73% of them said they would engage in layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts to make up the difference, jeopardizing the careers of child care workers (31).

The Parental Impact

Surveys of parents have found higher levels of stress and isolation throughout the pandemic than non-parents, with mothers reporting the highest increase: Nearly 50% of mothers reported feeling isolated or depressed, compared with about 35% of fathers (32).
Sixty percent of working parents said they have no outside help caring for their children during the pandemic and spend an additional 27 hours per week on domestic tasks on top of working their jobs, with women spending 15 more hours doing housework on average than men. A full half of parents surveyed felt that their work performance had declined as a result (33). A Brookings report found that workers most likely to scale back their hours tend to be below the poverty line and women, as they are more likely to be school or child care dependent than the general population.
As the pandemic continues, more women and more people below the poverty line will have to weigh the consequences of dropping out of the workforce to care for children in an already fiscally unsound environment (34).

The Impact of Uncertainty

Approximately 21% of the national workforce has children under 14 and no alternate caregivers. As regions across the country begin to loosen restrictions and reopen their economies, roughly a fifth of the country’s population will need child care or some other arrangement to ensure they can return to work without the added burden of increased domestic labor or time necessary for child care. The longer these issues persist, the more damaging they will be to the economy at-large as people drop out of the workforce to care for their children, or children fail to receive the necessary enrichment that leads to a healthy life (35).


We've Said it Before

America’s first suburb has gone from being one of the most affordable places in the nation to raise a family to one of the least. Over the last decade, Long Island households have been spending a much larger share of their incomes on rent, mortgage payments, and other associated housing costs than in other parts of the country. In fact, housing costs, coupled with taxes, are often cited as the primary reason that more people avoid moving to Nassau County and why residents who grew up in the County move away.
Making affordable child care more accessible is crucial as we work to update "The Deal" for families living in Nassau County.

It's time to talk about another affordability crisis: child care on Long Island.

Let's Take a Deeper Dive Into:
  • How the price and accessibility of child care threaten economic sustainability for Nassau County's families.
  • The impact of child care on our local economy.
  • "Best Practices", initiatives, and funding opportunities that can help bridge the child care gap and improve "The Deal" for families living in Nassau County.

Why is child care and early childhood education so important?

Research in the fields of neuroscience, biology and early childhood development provide powerful insights into how nutrition, relationships, and environments in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday shape future outcomes. This is because the first 1,000 days are when a child’s brain begins to grow and develop and when the foundations for their lifelong health are built.
Research has also demonstrated that early childhood education has positive effects on the individual level, as well as society as a whole. On the individual level, the availability of universal pre-K in Georgia was shown to significantly increase both 4th-grade reading and mathematics test scores (1).
Furthermore, the overall benefits are shown to outweigh the costs of early childhood education programs. Individuals that attend early childhood education programs experience higher net earnings, higher rates of home ownership, and educational attainment in the future. The net benefits to the general public include higher tax revenues and lower expenditures on criminal justice and social welfare (2).
However, due to the lack of regional infrastructure, competing education priorities and the restrictive nature of most recent pre-K grants, only an estimated 10% of 4-year-olds on Long Island have access to a full-day state-funded pre-K program.

How the price and accessibility of child care threaten economic sustainability for Nassau County's families

New York State ranks 6th in the nation as having the most expensive infant care, clocking in at an average annual price of more than $15,000 a year for an infant and more than $13,000 for a toddler, preschooler, or school-age child (3). Statewide, child care for an infant costs $7,930 (112%) more per year than in-state tuition for a four-year public college (4), which makes New York one of 33 states where infant care costs more than public college tuition.
Child care is not largely subsidized by taxpayers. Since 85% of revenue for child care is through private fees paid directly to the provider by the parent, the cost often exceeds what parents can reasonably afford to pay (5). 
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations, child care is considered "affordable" if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income. By this standard, only 9.4% of New York families have access to "affordable" child care (6).
The following graphics illustrate how the cost of child care impacts New York State residents.
Source: Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, 2019
Here in Nassau County, the average costs of center-based care are $15,936 annually for an infant, $13,884 for a toddler, and $12,420 for preschoolers (7). The average costs of child care consume over 12% of the median family income of $116,304. 
While many Long Island families' budgets are already stretched thin, the cost of child care is expected to increase by an average of $468 per year (8). In 10 years, the average cost of child care will consume more than 16% of median family income. This represents a 33% cost increase over a 10-year period. 

It's Also About Access...
On Long Island, child care is a patchwork of systems from private center-based care to pre-kindergarten programs that vary widely district to district.
Some districts offer programs but charge parents to attend, while others offer Universal Pre-Kindergarten, a New York State early childhood initiative focused on the educational development of 4-year-olds. However, many district programs that receive funding are required to run on a lottery system, limiting how many children can attend.
As a result, the Long Island region currently has the fewest preschool slots in New York State. Despite nearly $9 billion in public school tax levies, only 10% of 4-year-olds on Long Island have access to publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs, compared to universal access in New York City, where 100% of 4-year-olds can attend pre-K (9). 
For all children under 6 years of age,
There are 43,652 total child care slots in Nassau County and 39,034 available slots in Suffolk County. However, a total of 138,241 slots are needed. Including, (10)
  • 93,550 slots are needed to accommodate all children under 6 years of age that have both parents in the labor force.
  • 37,136 slots are needed for single parent households.
  • 7,555 slots are needed for households with a part-time worker.
Child Care Deserts
A child care desert is any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that lack child care providers or contain so few options that there are triple the amount of children as licensed child care slots (11).
Statewide, 64% of people live within a child care desert, which is the 5th highest in the nation. Child care supply is especially low among certain populations, with 73 percent of rural families living in areas without enough licensed child care providers. Moreover, 73 percent of mothers of young children participate in the labor force (12).
The map below from the Center for American Progress depicts child care deserts in Nassau County. Census tracts in Nassau County that qualify as a child care desert are shaded yellow. 

Impact of Child Care on Our Local Economy

Child care is a critical factor that propels or stalls economic development. Parents that have access to reliable child care are able to be more productive and miss less time at work, which can help foster opportunities for upward mobility. In simple terms, access to affordable child care allows more family members the opportunity to earn more income and help close the gender wage gap.
U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (13)
  • 1.1 million individuals who usually work part-time cite problems with child care as the primary reason for not working full-time on a regular basis in 2018.
  • Women make up 94 percent of the workers involuntarily working part-time due to child care problems.
U.S. Department of Human Services National Survey of Children’s Health (14)
  • 8.7 percent of families (2 million) had someone quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change a job in the past twelve months due to child care.
  • 46 percent of families have no reliable child care, other than from parents, for at least 10 hours per week, age 0-5 years.
Nationally, there are 674,332 market-based child care providers with revenue of $47.2 billion, which support an estimated $52.1 billion in additional indirect and induced output in other industry sectors (15). In total, output in the U.S. child care industry supports an estimated $99.3 billion, both directly and through indirect and induced multiplier effects. 
According to the Committee for Economic Development, New York State's child care industry generated $4.3 billion in direct revenue and supported an estimated $8.6 billion in additional economic return, including nearly 172,000 jobs (16).
Child care is an $800 million industry on Long Island, providing jobs for 9,000 people, many of them minorities (17).
Lost Economic Potential
Economic growth in New York State would increase if child care were affordable. The following graphics illustrate the economic benefits of affordable child care under a hypothetical scenario that caps the price of child care at 7% of family income.
Under this scenario (18):

Modernizing "The Deal" of Living in Nassau County

Child care is a prime example of how to make equity a growth strategy in and of itself. Since the lack of affordable, regulated child care slots has primarily penalized working class women, who already earn less than men, meeting the increasing demand would help individuals better support their families and businesses to more easily fill new jobs (19).  
What Can Policymakers Do To Ensure That Affordable Child Care is Possible?
All children deserve a quality setting with an educated workforce, regardless of their zip code. Although Nassau County does not control the area's school districts, policymakers, and school officials can advocate for resources proven to help make child care more affordable. The following section details three case studies that demonstrate successfully administrated governmental child care programs, as well as initiatives and funding opportunities that can help bridge the gap and update "The Deal" for families living in Nassau County.
  • What's Working: A Look at Proven Case Studies
  • Expanding New York State Facilitated Enrollment Childcare Initiative 
  • Increasing Funding Levels for Federal Child Care Subsidies

What's Working: A Look at Proven Case Studies

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the difficulties of achieving high-quality care for America’s children are widespread and multifaceted, but in short, the lack of viable options for child care make both staying home and going to work unaffordable for many parents (20). Therefore, governments will need innovative policy solutions and meaningful investments if they wish to increase the access to affordable, high-quality child care options.
Who's Leading the Way?
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council (LIREDC) asserts that the Quebec Family Policy and the Department of Defense’s Early Education program serve as models for comprehensive child care programs with a high return on investment that could be replicated or adapted as a pilot program on Long Island.
The following section breaks down those programs and also looks at New York City as examples of successfully administrated governmental child care programs that help to relieve the cost burden of early child care and education and allow more parents the options of staying home with their children or going to work.
  1. The Department of Defense's Early Education program
  2. Quebec's Politique Familiale (Family Policy)
  3. New York City's EarlyLearn, 3-K for All, and Pre-K for All

1. The Department of Defense’s Early Education Program

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a high quality child care system available to children of active military, which includes many of the components listed below. The program is centered around peace of mind - keeping members of the military more focused on their jobs through offering high quality and affordable child care.
The Impact
  • 12 weeks continuous paid maternity leave for all uniformed service members. However, new fathers are only paid for 14 days of paternity leave. 
  • Subsidies for child care are provided to families on a sliding scale; generally, contributions cap out at around 12 percent of family income irrespective of the number of children in child care. The program also provides for 12 hours of subsidized child care a day.
  • Competitive reimbursements and pay for early childhood teachers. Over the first 25 years that this policy has been in place, the base pay of new hires among early childhood teaching staff in military child development centers has increased by 76 percent, and turnover has plummeted (21).

2. Quebec

In 1997, the Canadian province of Quebec launched the “politique familiale", or family policy.
This program included (25):
  • 55 weeks of paid leave
  • Yearly allowance of $500 to $1,900 per child
  • Publicly subsidized, full-day, year-round child care programs for children under 5
  • Families cover part of the costs on a sliding scale (avg. cost $17 per day)
The Impact
The province annually subsidizes the program with roughly $2 billion. Quebec families cover part of the costs on a sliding scale. More working mothers, plus increased economic activity by the programs themselves, has provided tax revenues to cover more than 100% of the program.
Some benefits of this program include:
  1. Labor force participation in Quebec increased by over 16% (from 64 to over 80% for women with kids under 6)
  2. Tax revenues from higher earnings and economic activity have more than paid for the program

3. New York City

New York City schools are centralized under the Department of Education to form the largest school district in America with nearly 1 million students. Despite having more than 350,000 students than the next largest school district in the country, New York City is able to provide universal access to a pre-school education. 
Although funding for New York City schools is largely provided by the City’s general budget, which has a large commercial tax base and an income tax at its disposal, the City still serves as a prime example of how municipalities can provide access to child care through publicly funded programs.
Here in Nassau County, 56 school districts are independently run and primarily funded by local property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. Despite high property taxes, New York State is unable to provide Nassau County’s school districts with the same universal access to early childhood education as New York City.
The following section details New York City's efforts to ensure that all children, from birth to five-years-old, have the opportunity for a strong start in school and life (22).
Through EarlyLearn, New York City provides a number of free or low-cost infant and toddler programs for families who qualify. These programs—including Early Head Start—provide early care and education for children from six weeks through two years old, and they offer year-round care for up to ten hours a day. Eligibility is based on family income, size, and needs. Programs are located in NYC Early Education Centers and home-based Family Child Care settings.
3-K for All
New York City offers free, full-day, high-quality 3-K for All programs in a growing number of school districts across all five boroughs for three-year-olds. In additional school districts, 3-K programs are available to families who qualify based on their income, size, and needs; these programs, including Head Start, are free or low-cost and offer year-round care for up to 10 hours a day. While the City aims to make this program universal, the de Blasio administration announced budget cuts in April 2020 that will delay the implementation and rollout of 3-K in some districts.
Pre-K for All
Pre-K for All provides a free, full-day, high-quality pre-K program to every four-year-old. Other pre-Kindergarten programs—including Head Start—offer year-round care for up to 10 hours a day for families who qualify based on their income, size, and needs.
The Impact
  1. 94 percent of the City’s pre-Kindergarten programs met or exceeded the threshold on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, which predicts positive student outcomes after pre-K (23).
  2. The National Bureau of Economic Research found the launch of Pre-K for All led to improved health outcomes for low-income children, particularly increased diagnosis of asthma, hearing, and vision problems (24). These ailments have been correlated with poor performance in school.
Two Steps in the Right Direction for Long Island
  1. In 2019, New York State allocated $475,000 to Nassau BOCES’ Long Island Pre-K Initiative for the Regional Pre-K Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) (26). The funds are intended to provide guidance to organizations and school districts planning to start, expand, or improve pre-K programs on Long Island, ultimately putting Long Island one step closer to implementing a universal preschool program. In 2020, the Child Care Council of Nassau has asked for $750,000 in annual funding for the RTAC that will help bolster New York's existing investments in pre-K and ensure successful expansion of any new funding.
  2. In 2020, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers Act calls for a $9 billion investment over five years in grant programs to help community colleges and institutions serving minorities provide free child care for up to 500,000 children under the age of three whose parents are enrolled in a community college. The bill also would provide funding to increase the number child care centers in the communities around a college and help existing programs expand their reach and capacity.

Expand The NYS Facilitated Enrollment Childcare Initiative

The Facilitated Enrollment Childcare Initiative (FCCE) is a New York State funded program that assists working parents by increasing access to child care through subsidies for families earning up to 275% of the Federal Poverty Level.
According to the New York Union Child Care Coalition, increased funding for the Child Care Facilitated Enrollment Projects supports the New York economy by enabling parents to work, improving productivity by reducing lateness and absenteeism, and permitting parents to concentrate at work because they know their children are well cared for (27).
As a result, New York Union Child Care Coalition has petitioned the legislature to increase funding, raise the income thresholds for New York City residents, cap family co-pays at a maximum of 17.5% of household income for participants at or above 200% of the federal poverty level, and increase the reimbursement to qualified childcare providers to 75% of the state determined market rate. 
The above investment would also permit growth to additional catchment areas in Nassau, Suffolk, and Richmond counties. An expansion of Facilitated Enrollment projects to Nassau and Suffolk Counties would greatly aid families on Long Island in choosing quality, developmentally appropriate care for their children.  
An expansion into Long Island would subsidize the cost of childcare for those that meet the eligibility requirements, which are depicted in the charts below. It would effectively change lives overnight.  
Income Eligibility Standards 2019
Federal Poverty Guidelines
The income eligibility standards are based on the 200% level of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Increase Funding Levels for Federal Child Care Subsidies

Established in 1991 and reauthorized in 2014, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families in need. States use the program to subsidize child care for working families with low incomes, typically through vouchers or certificates, which can be used by parents to select the quality provider or program that works best for their family.
Although Congress reauthorized the program, insufficient funding was allocated, forcing states to use resources from other federal funding streams, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to ensure families don’t lose critical access to child care (28). Nationwide, only 1 in 6 families who qualify for child care assistance receive it, and in 2017, the program served the lowest number of children in nearly 20 years.
How the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant is Distributed in New York State
Although New York received a historic $95.7 million increase in discretionary funding in 2018, the state still needs in excess of $550 million to fully implement all requirements (29). 
Additionally, the availability of licensed and regulated child care options for families with children 2-years-old and younger is limited across all income levels, particularly for families with low to moderate incomes, many of whom are just above the threshold of 200 percent of poverty. Throughout the state,
  • Providers who care for infants and toddlers are at 90 percent of their capacity.
  • In some urban areas, nearly all existing care is being utilized, and there are long wait-lists.
  • In many rural areas, regulated child care options for children of all ages are nonexistent.
How Can Congress Improve the Impact of CCDBG
According to Child Care Aware of America, Congress should increase CCDBG funding by an additional $5 billion, which would give New York State $203 million in new funding (30).
How Can Nassau County Improve the Impact of CCDBG
Nassau County can ensure continued success by continuing the level of subsidies for family eligibility up to 200% of poverty in CCDBG funding as well as maintain the 20% family co-pay. If possible, the co-pay could be lowered to 10%, further making the program more affordable and accessible for Nassau families. 
It is also critical that the County continue its Maintenance of Effort for TANF funding as the state formula is based on the previous year’s spending. The County has been well positioned each year for TANF allocation based on previous year’s spending. 
These charts illustrate the eligibility requirements for the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant. The income eligibility standards are based on the 200% level of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Income Eligibility Standards 2019
Federal Poverty Guidelines 
The income eligibility standards are based on the 200% level of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Let's Get to Work

Making affordable child care more accessible is crucial as we work to update "The Deal" for families living in Nassau County. Aside from helping individuals better support their families, accessible child care fuels economic growth and helps to close the gender wage gap by allowing more women to work.
Although Nassau County does not control the area's school districts, policymakers and school officials can advocate for resources proven to help make child care more affordable, easier to access, and, eventually, universal.
Advocates like the Child Care Council of Nassau, Choice for All, the Parent Leadership Initiative, Long Island Association, the Long Island Federation of Labor, and many others in a broad coalition have been working tirelessly to help make this a reality in Nassau County.
In simple terms, with Nassau County residents stretched too thin, closing the child care gap just makes plain economic sense.

Works Cited
  1. Fitzpatrick, Maria D. "Starting School at Four: The Effect of Universal Pre-Kindergarten on Children's Academic Achievement." B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. 8.1 (2008): 1-38.
  2. Schweinhart et al. "Updating the Economic Impacts of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 27.3 (2005): 245-261.
  3. Empire State Campaign for Child Care. (2020). Fact Sheets and Reports, Child Care Aware of America. Price of Child Care in New York. Retrieved from
  4. Economic Policy Institute. (2019). The Cost of Child Care in New York. Retrieved from
  5. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). State of the Region: Long Island Breaking Down Barriers. 2019 Progress Report. Retrieved from
  6. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). Justice Agenda: the Time is Now. The Business Case for Child Care. Retrieved from
  7. Child Care Council of Nassau, Inc. (2020). Financial Information, Average Cost of Child Care. Retrieved from
  8. Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator for New York. (2009). Child Care Costs Rising $730 Each Year in New York. Retrieved from
  9. Koenig, Melissa. (2019). "State earmarks $475,000 to expand preschool access on Long Island". LI Herald. Retrieved from,116920.
  10. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). Justice Agenda: the Time is Now. The Business Case for Child Care. Retrieved from
  11. Center for American Progress. (2017). Do You Live in a Child Care Desert? Retrieved from
  12. Malik, Rasheed, Katie Hamm, Leila Schochet, Cristina Novoa, Simon Workman, and Steven Jessen-Howard. (2018). "America’s Child Care Deserts in 2018". Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
  13. Committee for Economic Development. (2019). Child Care in State Economies: 2019 Update. Retrieved from
  14. Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health. (2016-2018). National Survey of Children’s Health (2016 - present). Retrieved from
  15. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). State of the Region: Long Island Breaking Down Barriers. 2019 Progress Report. Retrieved from
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Economic Policy Institute. (2019). The Cost of Child Care in New York. Retrieved from
  19. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). State of the Region: Long Island Breaking Down Barriers. 2019 Progress Report. Retrieved from
  20. Economic Policy Institute. (2017). "What does good child care reform look like?". Retrieved from
  21. Ibid.
  22. Blanco, Amanda. (2019). "Playing the pre-K lottery: LI families share realities of availability, affordability". Newsday. Retrieved from
  23. Shapiro, Eliza. (2019). "Bright Spot for N.Y.’s Struggling Schools: Pre-K". The New York Times. Retrieved from
  24. Veiga, Christina. (2017). "Children in New York City are healthier since the start of Pre-K for All, study finds". Chalkbeat. Retrieved from
  25. Long Island Regional Economic Development Councils. (2019). Justice Agenda: the Time is Now. The Business Case for Child Care. Retrieved from
  26. Koenig, Melissa. (2019). "State earmarks $475,000 to expand preschool access on Long Island". Retrieved from,116920.
  27. New York State Assembly, Child Care WorkGroup. (2013). Child Care in Crisis: A Report from the Assembly Child Care WorkGroup. Retrieved from
  28. Child Care Aware of America. (2019). Child Care and Development Block Grant One Pager. Retrieved from
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.