Bill Aiding Child Caregiver Election Hopefuls Nears Vote

Councilmember Keith Powers. | Photo courtesy of Keith Powers

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A City Council bill aimed at boosting representation of women in office is expected to be voted on as early as the end of the month —  at the Council’s next stated meeting on Oct. 31 — according to bill co-sponsor Keith Powers’ office.

For anyone vying for an elected post in New York City in 2021 — when a large proportion of seats are up for grabs — the East Side councilmember said, the bill, which would allow candidates who are the primary caregiver of a child to use campaign funds to pay for childcare, is “one tool to help people ease the burden in terms of making the decision to run for office.”

Powers and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn introduced the legislation in May.

“I think one of the points of real consideration here is the fact that we’re going to have so many new people wanting to run for office,” Powers said. “We’re trying to not make that [childcare costs] a factor in terms of your decision.”

At a June Council hearing, Cumbo voiced concern that the bill not become another hashtag, saying the “devil in the details is where this could just be a sound bite.”

At that hearing, the city Campaign Finance Board (CFB) executive director Amy Loprest said the child care costs should count toward a candidate’s spending cap of $190,000 each for the primary and general election and, further, only be allowed for child care funds during an election year.

According to Powers’ office, details in the bill are still being finalized.

Though the specifics of the legislation and its implementation are not yet set in stone, Matt Sollars, a spokesperson for the CFB, said the board is pleased the Council has shown a willingness to address its concerns.

The CFB oversees one of the most comprehensive public financing programs in the nation, where money raised by candidates receives public matching dollars of up to six times the level of private donations.

The measure comes at a critical point in the city’s political cycle, with 36 of 51 councilembers and all three of the citywide elected officials unable, under the term limit law, to seek reelection in 2021 — though Public Advocate Letitia James is likely to leave office early if, as expected, she wins election as state attorney general next month.

Manhattan’s term-limited councilmembers include Speaker Corey Johnson as well as Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Margaret Chin, and Ydanis Rodriguez.

Should a special election be needed to fill James’ vacany early next year, the Powers-Cumbo bill would not be implemented in time for that contest.

“We didn’t want to throw [the CFB] under the bus by putting it immediately into place right now, but we wanted to get it ready for ‘21 when the entire city government will basically be up for election,” Powers said.

The bill was originally inspired by a Federal Election Commission decision in favor of Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is challenging 25-year Republican incumbent Peter King in the second congressional district on Long Island. Shirley had previously worked from home while raising children.

In early May, as the June 26 Democratic primary loomed closer, Shirley asked the FEC if she could apply campaign funds to pay for childcare services she wouldn’t otherwise have if she weren’t running for office. The FEC said yes, and Shirley won her primary. She faces King on Nov. 6.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *