ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – In a major victory for families, New York State will allow childcare subsidies to be issued for time school-age children spend at facilities during remote or virtual learning hours, a spokesperson for the Office of Children and Family Services said Tuesday.
Typically, subsidy payment regulations would not allow those subsidies to be paid out during regular school hours. Many students across Western New York, including those in Buffalo Public Schools, will begin the school year with remote instruction five days per week. Others are participating in a hybrid model, under which they would learn remotely part-time.
“When all applicable eligibility requirements are otherwise met, (local social services districts) must authorize child care assistance for school-age children when such children are not required to be physically present in school as part of the regular school day consistent with existing eligibility standards,” according to OCFS guidance.
The guidance is dated August 24th, but was being posted on the OCFS website Tuesday, the spokesperson said. It follows and adheres to emergency regulations issued by OCFS on August 19th, she added. It did not call for subsidies to be authorized for time spent during home instruction.
“We at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services are aware of the challenges that hybrid learning models are creating for parents of school age children and have worked closely with the provider community, the child care availability task force and parents to address the myriad issues that have arisen,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
In Buffalo, the Erie County Department of Social Services is responsible for administering subsidies.
“ECDSS will notify child care providers on the guidance from OCFS once it is received,” a county spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the Erie County Emergency Childcare Task Force is asking parents to fill out a survey regarding childcare during remote learning hours. A second survey has also gone out to childcare providers.
“We are looking for information and input so that we can identify what the need is for the parents and what the availability is from the providers,” said Kimberly Suminski, a member of the task force who serves as the CEO of the Childcare Resource Network.
Parents have until Friday to fill out that survey.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.