With state officials look to restart the economy, one issue holding back the return of New Jerseyans to the workforce is finding childcare while they are in the office.
To help make if more affordable for families, Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed bill A-5445 into law, providing $10 million in federal coronavirus relief aid for childcare providers throughout New Jersey. The bill was part of a five-bill, $100 million relief effort aimed at helping New Jersey’s economy recover from the year-long pandemic.
During the height of the pandemic, more than half of childcare providers—many of them women- and minority-owned small businesses that were already struggling—had to close their doors. Now, as the economy begins to recover and as more Americans begin returning to work, childcare providers are proving necessary for working New Jersey families and to local economies.
“Childcare providers are absolutely critical to New Jersey’s workforce, and the COVID-19 pandemic has hit them especially hard,” said Murphy at a signing ceremony in Paramus. “This legislation will help to ensure that these providers can continue to weather the pandemic and remain open and able to meet the needs of so many New Jerseyans who rely on them.”
“Without the commitment of child care providers, so many of our frontline essential workers would have been unable to go to work filling so many important needs,” said Department of Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “I thank Gov. Murphy for signing this bill and the Legislature for moving this forward.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer expanded on how the pandemic affected working families and the ripple effect it had on the child care industry over the past year.
“A year ago, we were literally in the eye of the COVID-19 storm. Since then, families have had to play the role of parent, teacher, daytime caregiver, and employee—all at the same time, 24/7, in a way that for many parents, who may normally head to work every day was certainly not the norm,” said Gottheimer. “Because of the sudden change last year while everyone quarantined, the pandemic has devastated the childcare sector.”
The bill was sponsored by State Sens. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) and Joseph Lagana (D-38), and Assembly Members Lisa Swain (D-38), Gabriela Mosquera (D-4) and Adam Taliaferro (D-3).
“Over the past year, women in particular have borne the brunt of the consequences of a lack of access to child care services,” said Swain. “The parents in our state both require and deserve affordable, accessible childcare. Providing financial support to childcare providers in need will help ensure these critical services are available to them.”
The Murphy Administration has spent nearly $200 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds on childcare capacity since last fall. To date, over 3,000 childcare providers have received grants to meet new coronavirus health and safety precautions and stabilize their operations, and a similar amount received enhanced subsidy payments between September and February.
“Over the last year, our childcare centers have had to navigate necessary COVID-19 safety protocols and restrictions, which have created additional pressures on their budgets,” said Ruiz. “This funding will help ensure these businesses are able to keep their doors open and continue to serve their communities as parents begin working in person once again. We cannot afford to have this industry collapse, they are part of what makes New Jersey strong.”
Gottheimer touted the bipartisan nature of the measure.
“Today’s announcement comes from a great deal of cooperation here in New Jersey—from across the aisle and from across North Jersey,” said Gottheimer. “This bipartisan state bill was sponsored by many of the great state legislators representing parts of the Fifth District, including right here, to help us get through this, so that we can recover, and so we can grow.”
Additionally, the federal funding that the law appropriates comes as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in Congress in March 2020 with bipartisan support.
The relief aid will be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which so far has provided more than $250 million in aid to 55,000 New Jersey businesses.