CAPITOL -- As the state slowly starts to re-open its economy, the need for child day care needs to be addressed, especially in rural areas where families have little access to commercial child care, according to a local state assemblyman.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, who is Assembly Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week urging him to address the rural child care issue -- a problem Santabarbara said has been worsened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Even before the pandemic, rural communities were critically underfunded and lacked important resources," he wrote.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Santabarbara said it was common in rural areas for grandparents or older family members to provide child care for young children. But fears about the spread of the coronavirus and rules for social distancing have changed that, because older people suffer the most serious and potentially fatal cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
"With the new norm of social distancing...that type of childcare may not be possible to the extent that it has been in the past," Santabarbara wrote. "It leaves families with a growing need for child care."
While the letter did not offer a specific solution, it noted that rural areas also have less broadband internet access -- something else that has been highlighted during the pandemic shutdown, with school children asked to participate in remote learning classes.
The 111th Assembly District, which Santabarabra represents, includes Montgomery County, one of the counties in the Mohawk Valley Region which started its initial economic re-opening efforts on Friday. Other than the city of Amsterdam and a few villages, the county consists of rural areas where businesses such as dairy farms have had to continue milking and caring for cows despite the shutdown of most other economic activity.