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Political Watch: Gillibrand aims to ease child-care burden

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Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 4:18 pm

With the rising cost of child care across New York, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has unveiled a plan to make child care more affordable and accessible for working parents. 

In 2012, New York was ranked the second least-affordable in the nation for full-time day care for an infant, according to a report by Child Care Aware. A two-parent family in New York spent an average of 16.5 percent of their annual income on care for their infant. 

For a single mother in New York, the cost of care was greater than 57 percent of her income. In response to the squeeze on New York working families, Sen. Gillibrand is championing legislation to address the lack of access to quality, affordable child care. Her push for affordable child care is part of her American Opportunity Agenda http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/agenda/the-american-opportunity-agenda aimed at “ensuring more working women have a fair shot at earning financial security by modernizing America’s outdated workplace policies.”

Sen. Gillibrand says that, in Western New York, there were nearly 68,000 families with children under 6 years old. For a year of child care in a day care center, families spend an estimate of up to $10,365 for an infant, up to $9,802 for a toddler 1 1/2 to 2 years, up to $9,230 for a child 3 to 5 years old and up to $8,667 for a child 6 to 12.

The senator is working to more than double the Dependent and Child Care Tax Credit (DCTC). Currently, the child and dependent care tax credit is worth a maximum of 35 percent of child care expenses, up to $1,050 per child or $2,100 for two children. The credit applies to any child under the age of 13 and to disabled dependents of any age. The Right Start Child Care and Education Act would increase the maximum credit from $1,050 to $3,000 per child, by raising the percentage of the tax credit to 50 percent and doubling eligible expenses. The legislation also makes the tax credit fully refundable, allowing low income families with no tax liability to receive the full benefit.

Sen. Gillibrand has also introduced the Child Care Deduction, which would allow middle-class families to deduct the cost of child care from their taxes as a business expense. She is also an original co-sponsor of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act, which is being debated on the Senate floor this week. 

This program was last reauthorized in 1996. For Fiscal Year 2013, New York State received $98 million in CCDBG funding to help low-income families gain access to quality, affordable child care and after-school programs while parents work or attend school. This program serves more than 1.5 million children nationwide every month, including over 120,000 children in New York state.

The legislation would require states to devote more of their funding to quality initiatives, including training, professional development, and professional advancement of the child care workforce. The bill ensures that CCDBG providers meet certain health and safety requirements, related to prevention and control of infectious diseases, first aid and CPR, child abuse prevention, administration of medication, prevention of and response to emergencies due to food allergies, prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and shaken baby syndrome, building and physical premises safety, and emergency response planning. The bill would also improve early childhood care by requiring states to focus on infant and toddler quality initiatives as well as how best to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Lastly, it would require mandatory background checks for child care providers in the CCDBG program.

 Schneiderman calls on State Dept. to withhold decision on Keystone XL

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is calling on the U.S. State Department to withhold any decision on the Keystone XL project until first analyzing the full climate change pollution impacts — to New York and across the United States — of the proposed project and related means of oil transport.

He submitted comments to the State Department as it prepares to determine whether the Keystone XL project serves the national interest. His comments aim to ensure that the cumulative climate change impacts of the project are considered before a final decision is made on the proposed project. 

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers know first-hand the catastrophic risks posed by climate change,” Schneiderman says. “Climate change is the single greatest environmental threat of our time, and one that poses a clear and present danger to our state and to our nation.”

He continues, “Keystone XL and related tar sand oil transport projects will result in large amounts of climate change pollution. For that reason, the federal government must fully account for these emissions and their contribution to climate change.”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport heavy crude oil extracted from tar sands located in Alberta, Canada, approximately 875 miles across the United States to Nebraska. (The oil would then be sent, via pipelines and other means, to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and sale). 

The project requires federal approvals and permits, including a determination whether the proposed project serves the national interest — a determination that involves consideration of many factors including environmental and economic impacts, and compliance with relevant federal laws.  

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one such federal law, Schneiderman says. Under NEPA, federal decision-makers must consider the environmental impacts of the project in an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deciding whether to grant necessary approvals and permits.  

Schneiderman’s office estimates that if the cumulative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands oil transport means were accounted for, they would collectively emit 605 to 3,740 million metric tons of additional climate change pollution to the atmosphere over the 50-year lifetime of the project. His office claims these emissions are two to 14 times New York’s 2008 total climate change pollution emissions of 254 million, and approach the United States’ total 2011 gas emissions of 6,702 million metric tons.

Schneiderman  argues that on a lifecycle basis, tar sands crude oil produces approximately 17 percent more climate change pollution than other forms of crude. Nonetheless, on Jan. 31, the State Department issued a final EIS failed to include an analysis of the cumulative climate change impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable means of transporting the tar sands oil to the United States.

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