Cuts Restored to Yeshivah Childcare Program After 2-year Battle

NEW YORK -

Funds for some childcare programs that were used extensively by yeshivos in New York state will be partially restored in the coming months, an aide to Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein told Hamodia on Tuesday.

Eichenstein, a freshman lawmaker representing Boro Park and Midwood, sent a letter to yeshivah administrators Monday night informing them that cuts to a state program with an overall worth of about $120 million will be mostly restored if yeshivos undertake several health and safety procedures.

“I am pleased to be able to inform you,” Eichenstein wrote, “that after much back and forth, a firm deadline of May 1, 2019, has been set for this funding to be restored. I have received this information in writing from ACS Commissioner [David] Hansell.”

The outcome comes after state Sen. Simcha Felder and Eichenstein — both in his position in the Assembly and former job in City Hall — worked closely with the state to resolve it.

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

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 are eligible for 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. Until Feb. 1, 2017, they received the same funding. The state Office of Children and Family Services then decided that since the requirements are lower, the “legally exempt” group should be reimbursed at only 75 percent of their expenses.

The overall effect on yeshivos was substantial — a loss of about $25 million a year. They will now receive a boost in funding beginning May 1. Yeshivos who have someone versed in CPR in each classroom will get an 81 percent reimbursement, and if they go for 15 hours of annual training for health and safety courses, they will get 87 percent of funding reimbursement.