Exclusive: State Forcing NYC to Cut Childcare Rate to Yeshivos

NEW YORK -
The New York State Capitol building in downtown Albany, N.Y., is shown with the Hudson River in the background on April 28, 1999. (AP Photo/Jim McKnight)

In less than two weeks, New York City yeshivos will see a significant drop in their reimbursement rates for certain childcare programs, Hamodia has learned exclusively.

Administrators of yeshivos will receive a letter on Wednesday from the city agency disbursing the state childcare program notifying them that as of Feb. 1, the reimbursement rate will be cut by 25 percent. The overall effect on yeshivos is expected to be substantial — about $25 million a year.

Councilman David Greenfield, a Brooklyn Democrat representing a district that includes a substantial number of yeshivos, told Hamodia on Tuesday that the cut is extreme and he will work to stop it.

“This will have a drastic and draconian effect on yeshivos that I represent and we will work with our state legislators to try to push this back and turn this around,” Greenfield said.

There are two types of childcare vouchers used to help low-income families. The city run voucher — which is more commonly known since until recently it had to be renewed on an annual basis — is funded directly by New York City. It serves approximately 1,200 children in the Orthodox community and is not affected by the state’s new rule.

There is another voucher, called the Child Care Block Grant, which is funded by the state but run by the city. It helps parents facing various levels of hardship. Schools who run the program are divided into several categories. Most are “licensed programs,” but there is a separate class called “legally exempt,” of which the bulk is made up of yeshivos. More than 14,000 yeshivah students are registered in this program.

The latter grouping is exempt from some of the conditions required by the regular program. However, until now they received the same funding.

Last year, the state Office of Children and Family Services decided that since the requirements are lower, the “legally exempt” group should be reimbursed at only 75 percent. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration did not implement the decision.

On Dec. 29, the state sent a sharply-worded letter to the city demanding that it cut funding to the “legally exempt” category immediately.

“Once new market rates are adopted by OCFS,” stated the letter by Janice M. Molnar, the agency’s deputy commissioner, “social services districts … must review all currently authorized cases to determine that payment is authorized for the actual cost of care… These reviews must take place as soon as possible.”

Yeshivos are estimated to receive more than $120 million a year from this program. If it goes into effect, the cut will show up on the check issued by the city on March 1.