Funding for after-school programs boosted

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More than $100 million in grants–a $17.7 million increase–will be available this year for after-school programs across New York.

Distributed through the Office of Children and Family Services, the grants are expected to provide services to more than 40,000 children in high-need areas, state officials say. Awards will be announced in April.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and youth were disconnected from after-school programming and lost out on this critical means to receive academic support and build stronger social connections,” says Gov. Kathy Hochul. “This funding will give young people another safe space to grow and express themselves and assure parents that their child’s learning and development isn’t confined to school hours.”

The state’s Learning and Enrichment After-School Program Supports initiative is an effort to standardize funding and eligibility and reduce administrative burdens for providers. Some $97.5 million in LEAPS after-school programs target children and young adults from Pre-K through high school. The after-school funds also include a $2.25 million pilot program for adolescents, when they’re out of school, to provide positive youth development. Monies for a technical assistance provider total $1 million.

“LEAPS grants offer an opportunity to reinvigorate existing after-school programs and fund new ones so that more school-age children have equitable access to these invaluable services, says  Suzanne Miles-Gustave, co-chair of the child care availability task force and acting commissioner of OCFS. “Research shows that young people who participate in these programs have higher school attendance, achieve greater academic success and are less likely to be at risk for exposure to harmful influences.”

Recently, the state announced $50 million in capital grants for child care centers and registered school-age children programs, and $50 million in business tax credits for eligible businesses that create or expand infant and toddler child care seats for their employees directly or through a third-party. 

Last October, as part of the FY 2024 budget, Hochul announced expanded access to affordable child care and the Empire State Child Tax Credit, in addition to other actions. That move is expected to help an additional 100,000 families in the state, officials say.

The nation has seen a steady rise in the demand for afterschool programs. There are 24.7 million children who would be enrolled in an after-school program if it were available, according to an 2022 Afterschool Alliance survey. That number is up from 24.5 million in early 2020. 

Unmet demand for after-school programs is significantly higher among Latino and Black children (at 60 percent and 54 percent, respectively) than among children overall (49 percent), according to the Access to Afterschool Programs Remains a Challenge for Many Families report.

Afterschool Alliance’s 2020 America After 3PM, the most-recent state-by–state report, found that from 2014 to 2020, all but six states and Washington, D.C. saw an increase in unmet demand for afterschool programs. New York had the highest unmet demand for afterschool programs among children not currently enrolled in one (66 percent). For every child in an afterschool program in New York, four children are waiting to get in.

Typically, children in low-income families don’t have access to learning opportunities outside school, including after-school programs. The America After 3PM report in 2020 found that families in the highest income bracket spend more than five times as much on out-of-school time activities annually than families in the lowest income bracket (roughly $3,600 annually vs $700).

New York’s LEAPS contracts begin Sept.1. Applicants can find information here.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Funding for after-school programs boosted

  1. This is great news! But it is only part of the solution.

    “Access” to afterschool activities depends A LOT on where you live and whether transport exists in the form of district-provided busing or parents able to provide car pools.

    A program that ends late in the evening with no way to get home safely in a reasonable amount of time is not really accessible to a lot of the young people who need it most.

  2. My twin brother and I were raised by a single mother in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Mom worked long days well into the evening and often on Saturdays to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We took advantage of several after-school programs, some at the schools, some at the “Y,” and sometimes art programs at the Brooklyn Museum and during the summer sleepaway camp run by the Grand Street Settlement House. We learned to swim, play different sports and games, and even were provided with snacks until Mom picked us up after work was done. We never thought of ourselves as poor, but by today’s standards, I suppose we were. We also had great family support. These programs were vital to our socialization, providing a sense of community. They also reassured our Mom that we were safe and not being drawn into some unsavory activity. The need is immense. I encourage the Legislature to at least approve twice as much money as the Governor has asked for. These programs should be mandatory and run through school districts throughout the state. Not just communities of color or those living in poverty. They should also offer remedial academic support to help overcome the loss of two years of development for young people due to the pandemic. I have no idea how much federal aid is left from the pandemic programs, but child development is the most important undertaking we can do for our society.

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