The child-care industry was among the hardest-hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many programs forced to temporarily close and then reopen with decreased enrollment and higher operating costs. To help struggling providers remain in business, the full Legislature unanimously passed a bill Thursday appropriating $100 million in funds in support of the child care industry.
The bill (A-5863/S-3990) would appropriate $100 million to the Division of Disaster Recovery and Mitigation in the Department of Community Affairs. The Division would oversee the distribution of funds to three state agencies – the Economic Development Authority, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Human Services.
Each agency would use the funds to help revitalize the industry in different ways, such as studying the current child care landscape, providing technical assistance to child care providers, and/or awarding grants to child care providers.
Upon the legislation’s passage, Assembly sponsors Lisa Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic), Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), Roy Freiman (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), Shanique Speight (D-Essex) and Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“As our state continues to come out of this crisis, one key component of our recovery that we cannot ignore is the restoration of child-care services. Many of the child-care programs that made it through the pandemic are now struggling to stay afloat. Without our support, they may be unable to expand services or continue to stay in business.
“Many parents – especially mothers – have been unable to re-enter the workforce because they lack access to affordable child care. New Jersey families will face financial difficulties and our economic recovery will falter if we cannot provide a sufficient network of high-quality, affordable licensed child-care providers throughout our state.
“New Jersey will be a model for the rest of the country in offering financial support to struggling providers. This will not only show our appreciation for the invaluable services they supplied during an unprecedented crisis, but will ensure our child-care providers can continue to offer these services going forward.”
The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.