EDA seeking input on how to strengthen child care sector

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority, in coordination with the departments of Human Services and Children and Families, issued a Request for Information on Friday, seeking insights and ideas on ways to build the business capacity and sustainability of child care providers in New Jersey.

The EDA said the RFI aims to identify business challenges that providers face as they operate throughout COVID-19. It also aims to identify obstacles and potential disparities that child care providers of all types have encountered managing their businesses, accessing capital and establishing partnerships.

Responses are due no later than 11:59 p.m. Jan. 8, 2021.

(Read the RFI here.)

EDA officials said they also are looking to better understand the short- and long-term challenges that child care providers are facing in their business operations, including challenges to accessing public resources — such as Paycheck Protection Program, NJEDA Small Business Emergency Assistance Grants, DHS COVID-19 Provider Grants — and private capital.

The NJEDA is also requesting ideas on solutions to these challenges, including training and technical assistance programs for child care providers on business operations; expanded partnerships among providers; and funding sources to support child care operations.

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the input gathered will help strengthen the state’s child care sector by identifying strategies, programs or other initiatives that could shore up critical resources as the state continues to respond to the pandemic.

“Today, we took an important step to address the longstanding challenges that child care providers face, as well as new obstacles brought on by the ongoing pandemic,” Sullivan said.  “Child care providers are critical to the strength and resilience of our economy. Gov. (Phil) Murphy has been unwavering in his commitment to rebuilding our state’s economy in an equitable manner. Through initiatives such as this RFI, we are working with our partners in and around state government to achieve that goal.”

The RFI seeks responses from such entities as child care providers; child care technical assistance providers; child care advocacy organizations; business and entrepreneurship support organizations; Child Care Resource & Referral agencies; Community Development Financial Institutions providing loans and/or financial support to child care providers; policy and academic researchers; and foundations and philanthropic initiatives that support child care. The EDA is also interested in hearing perspectives from organizations that could potentially deliver technical assistance to child care providers within New Jersey.

DHS Commissioner Carole Johnson said child care is essential both to our economic recovery and to our children’s development.

“The Murphy administration has worked hard to support working families’ child care needs and the providers who serve them throughout this ongoing public health crisis with increased funding, tuition assistance and grants, but more work is needed,” she said. “We are pleased to have collaborated with NJEDA and DCF on this RFI to help NJEDA get input on how it can use its strengths to best support child care when it’s needed most.”

DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer echoed the need for access to reliable, safe, affordable, accessible and quality child care.

“COVID-19 has forced many families to adjust their work schedules, commuting patterns and the way their children learn,” she said. “It is essential that they have access to reliable child care within their own neighborhoods and that these providers have the tools they need to operate safely.”

The RFI is the latest in a series of steps the state is taking to alleviate the burden families — particularly those with young children — face while navigating the economic impacts of COVID-19, as well as the economic impact on child care providers. This includes providing personal protective equipment to child care centers and family child care providers, waiving parent copays in the state’s child care subsidy program, tuition support for school-aged supervision and many other resources.

A full list of these programs can be found within the RFI; click here.