PAYBACK TIME: CITY REDUCES RAISE PROMISED TO CHILD CARE PROVIDERS

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The city plans to rescind part of a raise it promised to child care providers, City Limits has learned.

In June, city officials announced a rare raise for city-contracted providers. Intended to create parity between those serving children whose parents had vouchers from the city and those who were referred through child care networks.

But at a meeting on Tuesday, city officials told providers that state money traditionally used to cover administrative fees had dried up—and they’d have to use the $4 million initially secured for raises to help make up the difference. The result: Rates for some services will be less than before the raise; most will be undercut.

“We haven’t had a raise in ten years,” said Barbara Downing, who cares for four young children in her Bedford-Stuyvesant home. She’s been organizing with a local group, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), to get the raise. “When I heard [about the raise], it sounded good,” said Downing. “Now I’m hearing they’re giving it but they’re taking it back? So what’s the use of giving it?”

Downing, who cares for children through a subcontract with a local child care network, makes around $424 a week caring for four kids, according to city fee schedules. The raise promised in June would have bumped her up to $515, the same rate paid through vouchers. While Downing will still technically start out at the higher rate, the increased administrative fee will soon negate most of her raise—putting her at $447 a week. That makes her first raise in a decade about 5 percent—instead of the 21 percent she’d been promised.

The city had been covering the cost of the state’s withdrawal of funds, said Lisi DeBourbon, a spokesperson for the Administration for Children’s Services, which oversees public child care, who had no comment on why it’s suddenly decided to stop. The city hopes to implement the new rates within a few months, she added, which will be retroactive to July 1, the original start-date.

“It’s really crazy,” said Ejeris Dixon, an organizer with FUREE. “They put $4 million into the budget to take it back out again. It’s just a clear election-year maneuver.”

Maneuver or no, Downing found it a bitter pill to swallow. “We work hard to take care of these children and provide a safe and nurturing environment,” she said. ‘I don’t think this is fair.”