Murphy commits $250M to support child care services; families making less than $75K are eligible

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the COVID Child Care Initiative on Friday, a program that will use $250 million from the state’s CARES Act funding to provide support for child care for working families.

“Now, more than ever, working families need access to child care to balance the many demands they are facing during the ongoing pandemic,” Murphy said. “With these investments, we are ensuring that high-quality child care is accessible and affordable for families across the state.”

The state announced two programs that will help families making less than $75,000. It also said the state will commit money to help child care centers that serve children receiving the subsidy.

The first program:

  • The Department of Human Services will provide child care subsidies during the school day for school-age children (5-13) through the end of calendar year 2020;
  • Participation in the program is available to children in families with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level who meet program criteria.
  • The state said a family of three with income up to $43,440 would be eligible to enroll in the program. Today, about 21,000 school-age children receive a state subsidy to support the cost of before- and after-school child care.
  • Kids currently enrolled and any newly enrolled school-age children will now be eligible for state subsidy funding for child care services throughout the school day.
  • This funding will be used at licensed child care centers or registered family child care providers, and child care providers will be paid the state’s subsidy rate for school-age children based on the hours of care needed.

The second program:

  • The Department of Human Services will create a new $150 million program to provide child care support to New Jersey families who are not eligible for the state Child Care Subsidy Program, but who are in need of either full- or part-time child care due to their child’s school’s remote learning schedule.
  • This assistance will be available through the end of calendar year 2020 for families with school-age children, 5-13, with annual incomes below $75,000, through an application process.
  • Funding for recipients of this program will be provided directly to the family’s selected licensed child care center or registered family child care, and providers will be paid the state’s subsidy rate for school-age children based on the hours of care needed.

Applications for the programs will open in early September. When the process opens, families may submit applications and the department will make awards to participants who meet the eligibility criteria until funding is exhausted. Selected recipients will be eligible for either full- or part-time support based on their families’ needs.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said the programs serve a serious need.

“Today is an important day,” he said. “The funding announced is much-needed as we move toward further reopening of our state — $250 million is a huge investment and it offers the support that our state’s hard-working families need as we all wait for the pandemic to subside and guard against a resurgence in the fall.

“Child care providers play a critical role for children and their parents who are going to back work in-person. It is vitally important that we support providers and families with restart grants, supplemental funding and tuition scholarships. This is the right thing to do, and I thank the governor for spearheading this initiative.”

Murphy said the programs will help the state support the reopening and sustainability of child care centers that make it a priority to serve children receiving the state child care subsidy.

The Department of Human Services will provide supplemental payments of $75 per subsidy-eligible child, per month, including infants, toddlers and school-age children, to providers through the end of the calendar year.

The Department of Human Services will make funding available to all licensed child care centers and all registered family child providers in New Jersey that are open or will open by Oct. 1 to manage added operational costs due to new COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

These funds will be available to nearly 6,000 child care providers in New Jersey with increased COVID-related costs, such as purchasing PPE and other supplies and materials, cleaning and sanitation, and other operational needs.

Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said the initiative shows the importance between child care and the work world.

“We have long known that quality child care is essential to child development and economic development,” she said. “Today’s announcement makes clear that, in the face of a pandemic, child care is also essential to helping schools reopen.

“The governor and the Department of Human Services are taking these actions to address some of the incredible burden working families are facing as work-from-home and remote learning occur at the same time. Families need relief, and we hope today’s actions offer some hope and opportunity for parents to get the support they need.”

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer agreed.

“The pandemic has reinforced what we already knew — that access to adequate, affordable and safe child care is absolutely vital to working parents and New Jersey’s families,” she said. “We are working collaboratively and creatively across state government to expand child care capacity and ensure that quality care is within reach for every New Jersey family that needs it.”