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Colleen Pillus (845) 486-2000 firstname.lastname@example.org
Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County has experienced 24 consecutive months of private sector job growth and unemployment is at one of its lowest points in years, just 3.5% for September 2019. With near-full employment, it more important than ever to remove barriers to those interested in entering or remaining in the workforce. Limited access to affordable childcare is one of the largest barriers that prevent many from entering the workforce. Quality of childcare is also a concern, as too often low-income families receive lesser quality care, putting these children at a disadvantage as they progress through life.
In his 2020 Executive Budget proposal, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro includes $150,000 in funding to help close the access gap and ensure quality care is available for all children in Dutchess County with partnerships with the Day One initiative and QualitystarsNY. Additionally, the County will work with the County’s Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC), the Child Care Council of Dutchess Putnam, and others to expand access to childcare to encourage workforce growth and development.
County Executive Molinaro, “Our economy is growing but limited access to quality childcare makes it difficult for parents to remain in or re-enter the workforce after having children, while denying employers access to a whole host of skilled and capable employees. While access to childcare can be an obstacle for men, it remains a significant challenge for women entering or returning to employment. We intend to address this inequity while expanding access to childcare that will help children on their path to success.”
President and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Frank Castella, Jr. said, “Our nation is facing an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers, which limits our business community’s ability to grow and prosper. Addressing the childcare issue not only bolsters our workforce, but also strengthens our education pipeline.”
The Day One Initiative is a local community-led effort to make Dutchess County an Early Learning Community and improve the quality of childcare by training and retaining skilled childcare teachers. The 2020 Executive Budget provides funds to help launch Day One’s childcare teacher training pilot program. This pilot project will be located at Wimpfheimer Nursery, the early childhood laboratory school at Vassar College, and will provide hands-on and intensive coursework to individuals new to the field and those working in local daycares. Two cohorts, each comprised of apprenticeship teachers, will split the day working in Wimpfheimer classrooms and attending intensive early childhood teacher course with a Master Instructor/mentor. To encourage participation, teachers will receive a stipend and their daycare program employers can take advantage of the “exchange teacher” benefit, where trained teachers will fill in for participating teachers so the daycare does not have a void while their staff takes part in the training.
Gerry Laybourne, who led the team that created Nickelodeon and co-founded Oxygen Media, is the force behind the Day One initiative, along with Dutchess County Legislator Rebecca Edwards and Vassar College’s Julie Reiss. Laybourne said, “I applaud the County Executive’s commitment to Day One. Investing in our young children, teachers, families and local community to dramatically improve the economic health and well-being sends a message that Dutchess County cares about its kids—the earlier the investment, the greater the return.”
Also, in 2020, the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services (DCFS) will work with QUALITYstarsNY, New York State’s voluntary 5-Star early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System, designed to support local providers in improving care quality. Several Dutchess County daycare programs currently work with QUALITYstarsNY and the evidence-based practices they focus on to ensure young children have access to excellence and their families can trust the level of quality in the programs they choose. County officials met with QUALITYstarsNY representatives to explore ways of expanding the number of programs in Dutchess County taking advantage of their 75 Standards of Excellence.
In addition to improving quality of childcare, Dutchess County is working to increase access to childcare. Access to affordable childcare is an impediment to workforce growth and development. Limited daycare availability, lack of non-traditional daycare hours and in particular, the high cost of daycare all serve as barriers. The cost of childcare in New York State can rival the cost of a mortgage payment and can a be net financial loss for families. This is national problem resulting in roughly $8.2 billion in lost annual wages.
The Dutchess County Economic Development Advisory Council’s (EDAC) Education and Workforce Committee, co-chaired by DCC’s Pamela Edington and IBM’s Sheila Appel, will continue to work with Think Dutchess Alliance for Business, its members, and local employers to identify and facilitate solutions to this issue. The issue was highlighted last year during the EDAC’s Design Thinking Workshop held at IBM Poughkeepsie, which focused on solutions to closing the skills gap, and is now a 2019 priority for the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC), whose recently released progress report noted the benefits of quality, affordable child care include “better educational outcomes, reduced special education placement, development of employment skills” for children; “increased productivity, fewer work days missed, increased earnings” for parents; and improved recruitment and retention of talent” for employers. Initiatives include working with the Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam, Inc. to connect with organizations in planning their talent pipeline and retention strategies with assistance in addressing childcare issue.
County Executive Molinaro will present his 2020 Executive Budget Address on Wednesday, October 30th at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Chambers, 22 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, in advance of the November 1st deadline required by the Dutchess County Administrative Code. The County Executive’s Budget Address can be viewed live on the County’s website, www.dutchessny.gov. Later that evening on the 30th, at 6:30 p.m., County Executive Molinaro and Budget Director Jessica White will host a countywide tele-town hall forum when residents will have the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2020 County Budget, learn key details, ask questions and share feedback. County Executive Molinaro will also host a series of 2020 Executive Budget town hall forum events throughout the county during the month of November.