Bill Moves with Four Others Boosting Industry Capacity to Deliver Quality, Affordable Childcare for Working Families
Child care is important to New Jersey families and a key driver of economic growth, being both a necessary mechanism for returning parents to the workforce and a sector that employs thousands of New Jerseyans. Over the course of the pandemic, however, over a thousand centers across the state shut their doors.
Legislation (A-4179) sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin and Assemblywomen Mila Jasey, Shavonda Sumter, and Annette Quijano would help to create more seats for infants and toddlers to begin tackling the issues parents face in accessing and paying for high-quality child care. The Assembly Women and Children Committee advanced the bill on Thursday.
“New Jersey faces a very real problem of child care deserts, areas where there is a lack of access to quality and affordable child care,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Not only does that immediately impact families who rely on day care to go to work, but it’s indicative of a serious need to address regulatory and financing obstacles that are standing in the way of centers fighting to stay open or striving to grow to meet demand.”
“Thriving By Three” competitive grants, in total $28 million, would specifically support the improvement of existing childcare facilities to increase space for infants and toddlers and support staff recruitment and development.
“The challenges the industry faces aren’t new, but the need to take action has not been more urgent,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “Parents and mothers thrive on the support that access to affordable formalized childcare services provides, but if staffing and resource needs aren’t being met, centers are never fully equipped to succeed.”
“Higher wages and more benefits are drawing staff away from childcare centers and into other industries,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The grants under this program, which work toward development, help further professionalize the field and create opportunities for growth that will help address the staffing crisis many face.”
“Childcare is important to promoting developmental well-being,” said Quijano (D-Union). “In the face of recent social and economic challenges, both women and children lose out when affordable quality childcare is no longer an option.”
The Committee also approved four other measures Thursday. Together with the ‘Thriving By Three’ grant program, these bills take a broad-based approach to bolstering childcare by addressing direct affordability for families, workforce retention and development, and long-term viability of the industry in New Jersey:
- A1469 sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Roy Freiman, and Eliana Pintor Marin would incentivize workforce retention by creating a gross income tax credit of up to $1,500 for childcare staff and registered family day care providers who have provided 1,260 hours of care for six months out of the year.
- A4176 sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ellen Park, Sadaf Jaffer, Angelica Jimenez, and Pamela Lampitt would improve childcare affordability by establishing a Child Care Tuition Assistance Program benefitting families of four with incomes of up to $83,250, the current income level for households of that size making 300 percent the federal poverty level.
- A4177 sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Lisa Swain, Angela McKnight, and Cleopatra Tucker would continue the enrollment rather than attendance based subsidy for childcare providers for the next three years to stabilize an industry struggling to keep afloat.
- A4178 sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Shanique Speight, Linda Carter, and Carol Murphy would breakdown regulatory challenges that arise from providers having to interface with eight different departments and agencies for licensure by creating a central Department of Early Childhood.
Keeping childcare center doors open not only benefits New Jersey’s economic development but also fundamentally works to address the social concerns about women’s declining workforce participation in the wake of the pandemic. On Monday, the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing on the equity aspect of this child care crisis, which is faced not only by women in New Jersey but by those across the nation.