Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul wants a greater emphasis on child care in the ninth round of the state's regional economic development council competition.
Hochul, who chairs the statewide regional councils and is co-chair of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Child Care Availability Task Force, asked the co-chairs of the 10 regional councils to make child care a priority in their 2019 plans and to encourage applicants to include child care solutions in their project proposals.
The plans could include on-site child care, child care co-ops with other businesses or other options, such as flexible scheduling.
Child care is a $4.3 billion industry in New York, Hochul wrote in her letter to the regional council co-chairs. However, more than 60% of New York residents live in a "child care desert" — an area with little or no access to child care.
The lack of child care options negatively impacts New York's economy, Hochul said.
"As a mother, I know how important it is to have access to quality child care to help balance responsibilities at work and at home," Hochul said. "We want to ensure that working families are provided with the resources for safe, accessible and affordable child care."
Hochul added that investments in child care can help address other issues, such as women participating in the workforce and closing the gender wage gap.
Child care has been discussed as an economic development issue in the past, but it hasn't been a priority. The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council's 2018 progress report doesn't contain any mention of child care.
Hochul urged the regional council co-chairs to "change the dialogue." The councils, she said, could push the private sector to develop strategies to increase access to affordable child care.
"I believe that the REDCs are uniquely equipped as an institution working to create solutions that will have lasting impact on working parents and their children while enhancing our state's productivity," she wrote.
Through the regional council contest, the state will award $750 million to support economic development projects across the state. The 10 regional councils represent western New York, the Finger Lakes region, the Southern Tier, central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, Capital Region, Mid-Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.
The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council is comprised of officials from Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties.