Foundation works to make Adirondack voices heard in Albany

LAKE PLACID — Adirondack Foundation has weighed in on the recently adopted New York state budget, noting it will make strides to support child care and affordable housing in the Adirondack region, but falls short of adequately addressing low pay for child care workers.

Reacting to the $237 billion budget this week, Adirondack Foundation President & CEO Cali Brooks thanked lawmakers for restoring funding for the Rural Preservation Program, the Small Rental Development Initiative and land banks, and expressed gratitude to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Sen. Jabari Brisport and Assemblywoman Andrea Clark for placing an emphasis on several critical child care initiatives.

“Our board and staff have been working diligently with officials in Albany to make sure that Adirondack voices are heard in budget negotiations,” Brooks said. “This budget takes significant steps to address two of the biggest challenges in our communities: housing and child care. And while we’re pleased that lawmakers are investing in child care resources, we’re disappointed that the people working directly with young children aren’t being paid their fair share. We will continue to advocate for these critical workers going forward.”

Housing The initial state budget removed funding for the Rural Preservation Program, the Small Rental Development Initiative and land banks; the final budget restored this funding. Appearing before the Legislature earlier this year, Adirondack Foundation’s Vice President for Community Impact Lori Bellingham testified that the scale of communities in the Adirondacks creates a significant challenge when it comes to accessing public resources to address inadequate housing stock.

“The housing crisis is a workforce crisis that inhibits our region’s economic development,” Bellingham said. “Our residents seek to improve their rural communities by ensuring that teachers, first responders and municipal workers can live, work and welcome visitors to the North Country. While private investments and charitable support makes a difference, we simply can’t address these systemic challenges without leveraging public support.”

“Our communities are truly rural — meaning there’s rural and then there’s the Adirondack region,” Bellingham added. “While we are bookended by the population bases of Plattsburgh and Lake George, the majority of the more than 100 communities in between are home to fewer, often far fewer, than 3,000 people. In these communities, housing projects of 12 units for people making at least 120% area median income make a significant impact in schools and the local economy. By adding back investments in proven programs, more communities in the North Country will be able to become approved as Pro Housing Communities. We look forward to achieving priority eligibility given the smaller scale of our towns and villages.”

Child care The final budget includes $25 million in funding for Child Care Resource & Referral Networks (CCRRs).

These networks provide services to parents and child care providers in every county of New York state and are critical partners of child care providers, offering technical assistance and training. The budget also appropriated up to $10.7 million for Infant Toddler Resource Centers, up from $7 million last year.

The budget also includes desperately needed increases to the Early Intervention Program, including a 5% rate increase for in-person services and an additional 4% rate modifier for providers working in rural and underserved areas like the Adirondack region. Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance Director Kate Ryan noted that rate increases are necessary to recruit and retain any early intervention workforce.

This was an important first step, as Early Intervention provider rates are lower now than they were in 1994.

“Although this is not a solution for the early intervention crisis and workforce challenges, it is a start,” Ryan said.

The state’s Help Me Grow and QUALITYstarsNY programs were funded at $1 million and $5 million, respectively, which matches last year’s budget.

“We are disappointed, however, that the budget did not include a provision to decouple parent work hours from Child Care Assistance Program payments,” Ryan said. “This would have allowed families who receive subsidies to keep their child in child care while they go to the doctor, get groceries, etc., as private-pay families are able to do. Given our transportation and geographic challenges, this would have been very helpful to families in our region.”

The budget did not contain new funding for a permanent state child care fund to increase pay for child care workers.

“This fund would have supplemented child care providers’ wages to ensure they are making a rate of pay more consistent with the skills and demands of the career and work to build a more sustainable workforce,” Ryan said. “The career would be more enticing to a potential provider if the rate of pay is closer to that of a public school teacher. We hope this proposal will be revisited by the legislature soon.”

Ongoing advocacy “As a community foundation, we’re dedicated to improving quality of life in the Adirondack region through philanthropy,” Brooks said. “As our foundation grows, we realize that stewarding charitable funds and awarding grants is just a start — we need to use our knowledge and resources to advocate for public support of the problems we’re working to solve. In a region as rural as ours, we must leverage public-private partnerships for the greater good.”

To learn more about Adirondack Foundation, visit adirondackfoundation.org.

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