Child care expansion moves ahead in Utica

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UTICA — Earlier this year, Mayor Robert M. Palmieri unveiled the Utica Prosperity Initiative, a framework for the city to achieve substantive and sustainable impact by utilizing resources to address the needs of the community.

As part of the initiative, the city solicited public input to determine the community’s top priorities, projects, and programs. In June, a list of Phase I projects was released, including an expansion of childcare which was overwhelmingly the community’s most supported part of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), city officials said.

Palmieri, in partnership with United Way of the Mohawk Valley and Academics First, a child care agency, on Thursday announced the city will provide funds to expand the hours of childcare as outlined in Phase I. The exact amount of the funding was not released.

“The Utica Prosperity Initiative is about listening to the community,” Palmieri said. “Childcare is clearly a huge hurdle in combating poverty, and it is imperative we expand it to help more parents in need. I thank United Way for their outstanding work and look forward to the continuing partnership.”

“Supporting childcare in our region has always been a top priority for United Way. Partnering with the City of Utica on this initiative allows Academics First to continue to expand access to affordable childcare when families need it the most,” said Erin Gutierrez, executive director of the United Way of the Mohawk Valley.

The move was hailed by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who issued the following statement: “As Majority Leader, I made funding state and local governments my top priority in the American Rescue Plan and fought hard to ensure that places like Utica would get the resources needed to both defeat COVID and revive our local economies. The pandemic increased the need for quality child care in the Mohawk Valley, and these new funds will expand services while providing real help for employers and hard-working families.”

Academics First currently offers licensed childcare from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, however, with the city’s investment, it will soon offer child care from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

United Way and Academics First are working on the ramp up to offer those expanded hours, the announcement said, adding that the additional hours will accommodate a wider range of needs of parents and caregivers.

More information about the program, or any other inquiries can be found on the Academics First website, www.acedemicsfirstutica.org, or by calling 315-624-0272. The city will be announcing the implementation of other Phase I projects and unveil the Utica Prosperity Initiative’s Phase II projects next week.

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