Families across the country are still facing many challenges from the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic forced child care centers to limit their intake, leaving many families in need of assistance without services, and some even closed permanently. Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County (CCEOC) has provided a ray of hope through this stressful time by expanding its programming to address the resulting increased demand for child care.
CCEOC provides programming that promotes economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being of children. When staff began experiencing an increased volume of phone calls from households in need of childcare due to COVID-19 closures, it expanded its Child Care Resource/Referral Program (CCR&R), which assists parents with securing daycare opportunities.
“Within a matter of days after the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, families found themselves without care not only for their youngest children, but also for their school-age kids and dependents with special needs,” said Mary Beth McEwen, executive director of CCEOC. “Family and work structures changed immediately, with no time for planning and response by critical support systems such as child care.”
To answer the call, the organization launched the CCR&R COVID-19 Child Care Relief Program – Madison County with the help of a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation’s Madison County Rural Poverty Fund. The program provides families in crisis with child care scholarships, crisis-focused COVID-19 community education and government relief navigation assistance.
Staff work one-on-one with the child care providers and parents to assess their dependent care needs. They also assist the families with completing circumstance forms, guidance documents and locating agencies, web sites, and open daycare slots. If government relief is not feasible or timely, intermediary scholarships are deployed to assist with child care costs. So far, CCEOC has deployed scholarship assistance to six Madison County families that were unable to obtain government relief funds for child care.
“Many families did not qualify for the forms of government relief being offered, which meant they could not get qualified for child care funding,” said McEwan. “We have worked hard to make sure we are here to help them navigate all avenues of the system.”
From the beginning of the pandemic, the CCEOC has remained connected to the community – from sewing masks for essential workers to voicing thanks to New York farmers in a YouTube video. The organization plans to utilize the CCR&R program to continue to support families through any future obstacles.
About the Madison County Rural Poverty Fund
The Madison County Rural Poverty Fund is an effort to support poverty-related causes in Madison County, where 11% of the population was living below the federal poverty rate in 2017, according to CNY Vitals.