The cost of child care in New York City has become a crushing burden for too many households, which is why we’ve recently championed state legislation to expand and improve child care options for thousands of working families across the five boroughs.
Right now, just one of every seven eligible infants and toddlers in New York City has access to subsidized child care. And the average annual cost of child care for families often soars above the cost of rent.
That’s unsustainable — and it has to change to make New York a place that’s livable and affordable for families.
Our NYC Under 3 Act — also sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker — delivers the reforms we need.
It would more than triple the number of children younger than 3 in city-backed care by providing graduated subsidies to working families with earnings up to $100,000 a year for a family of four. It would provide relief by slashing child care costs for families — and driving that bill down to zero for the families who are struggling most.
But expanding quality, affordable child care to tens of thousands isn’t just the right thing to do for our kids and families — it’s smart for our economy.
With the unemployment rate at a record low, many employers are struggling to fill vacancies. But with our plan, we estimate that some 20,000 parents — mostly single mothers with lower incomes — would be able to fill the gap by entering or re-entering the labor force.
Those new employees would earn $540 million a year — money they need, and money that would be invested back into the economy in the form of spending and taxes. Beyond that, with a quality child care system in place, businesses would gain a more stable work force, as parents would not be forced to cut back hours or leave their jobs when they have a child.
So child care is about our parents, our children — and our work force. And that’s why the NYC Under 3 Act is supported by a small payroll tax on the biggest employers. Only the top 5 percent of businesses in the city (based on payroll) would be subject to the tax, and a full 95 percent of businesses would be exempt from it.
And these big corporations pay the highest wages in the city: The average wage for that 5 percent of businesses is nearly three times that of the 95 percent of businesses that are excluded.
But let’s dive deeper. Only corporations with payrolls over $625,000 per quarter — not per year, as some coverage has intimated — would have to pay a fraction of a single percent more, rising from 15/100ths of a percent on payrolls over $2.5 million per year, to 22/100ths of a percent above $10 million per year, with one step in between.
This small, graduated tax on the city’s largest corporations would boil down to about $259 per employee per year. And because it’s a payroll tax — unlike, say, an income tax on high earners — it would be fully deductible on a firm’s federal business income tax, actually helping to reduce the business’ tax burden.
Moreover, making it easier for people to raise families in New York will help draw the best talent from around the globe.
We have to be focused on the long-term impacts, too. Research tells us that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, we save $8 down the road as a society. Investing in those critical years — when 80 percent of brain development occurs — means getting every child to the starting line of school together.
Investing in every child by expanding access points to education is essential to creating an impact across all societal structures, particularly ending the cycle of the school-to-prison pipelines that we know will decrease the rates of recidivism in our communities. The fact is, achievement gaps don’t start in kindergarten — or even pre-kindergarten — they start on Day One of a child’s life.
Here’s the real bottom line: It’s time for everyone — including big business — to contribute to creating a stable work force and helping our children succeed. NYC Under 3 is a bold, progressive solution that can make our city a national leader in the fight to give every child an equal playing field, starting on Day One.
It would be a win for our kids, our families, and our economy.
Scott Stringer is the city comptroller, and Jessica Ramos is a state senator representing the greater Jackson Heights community in Queens. A version of this Point of View originally appeared on Medium.com.