Utica, N.Y.— Childcare providers in the area are calling on the Oneida County Department of Social Services to pay them when their programs are forced to close due to COVID-19.
Back in April Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed childcare providers as essential workers, allowing daycares and childcare providers to continue to operate throughout the pandemic. The Oneida County DSS provides many parents with a subsidy to cover all or a majority of their costs for childcare. Back in April, the DSS made a waiver that ensured parents would have no fees out of pocket and would be covered fully, and while this waiver has become a blessing for parents, childcare providers are getting the short end of the stick.
“Our local department of Social Services has decided not to pay providers if we become ill,” Gina Kierpiec, Owner of Little Hearts Daycare explained. “So if one of our children give us Covid or one of our household members test positive they will not pay us. They have opted out of paying providers if we become exposed or have to shut down due to Covid.”
Kierpiec has owned and operated Little Hearts Daycare for eight years. Her program is licensed through the Office of Children and Family Services and she currently cares for 12 children 24 hours seven days a week. Under the Oneida County waiver, Kierpiec and her five staff members won’t be paid if they have to shut down due to Covid. While most essential care providers are given Covid pay, providers that get funded by the Department of Social Services do not.
“It’s very possible for us to get covid as easily as any other frontline,” Kierpiec said. “And a lot of providers are financially struggling because I know a lot of programs have come into where a child has tested Covid positive and they are forced to shut down for two weeks without pay. It is a big financial burden for a lot of providers.”
Kierpiec has contacted the OCFS and Oneida County DSS and was told that it was a county-specific decision. When asked if other counties have paid providers, she said yes.
“Yes, there are plenty of counties that are paying providers for program closures if they are covid positive or exposed to covid,” Kierpiec said.