Class Challenges NY Child Care Copayments

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CN) – Some poor families in New York pay more for child-care than others families with the same income, because of the counties where they live, a class action claims in Monroe County Court. The class claims the state’s Office of Children and Family Service has no regulatory standards to guide how parents’ shares of child care subsidies are calculated.

     It’s up to local social services districts to choose a multiplier, or divider, of between 10 and 35 percent of a family’s gross income. No statewide guidelines exist, the class claims.
     The families in the plaintiff class have incomes of 100 to 275 percent of the poverty level, and live in counties that apply the highest co-payment permitted by the state.
     This forces scores of families to pay more than 10 percent of their household income for child care.
     The rest of the subsidy funding comes mainly from the federal government, through the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
     Before receiving federal grant funding, the state must submit a plan with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The plan must include a description of the sliding fee, and the factors involved in determining cost-sharing with families.
     Federal regulators maintain that “a fee of no more than 10 percent of a family’s income would generally be considered to be an affordable co-payment,” the complaint states.
     But the class claims that despite having to file a “comprehensive” plan, the state does not explain how its choices relate to a family’s ability to pay.
     The plaintiffs say they would all save a lot of money if they lived in neighboring counties.
     Lakeisha Williams of Monroe County pays $77 per week for before- and after-school child care. If she lived in nearby Livingston County, she would pay $26 a week.
     Theresa Anderson would save almost $60 a week for sending her two sons to a family-care home while she works, if she lived in Schoharie County instead of Schenectady.
     The plaintiffs call the sliding scale invalid and discriminatory.
     They seek a judgment directing Gladys Carrion, the commissioner of the OCFS, to develop co-payment regulations within 6 months of a court order, and to base them strictly on a family’s ability to pay.
     Lead attorney for the class is Michael Mule with the Empire Justice Center.

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