EDA creates $54.5M grant program aimed at improving child care facilities

In phase one, eligible centers could receive grants between $50,000-$200,000

Child care facility operators soon may be eligible for grants between $50,000 and $200,000 to improve the condition of their facility, thanks to a $54.5 million program approved Wednesday by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The Child Care Facilities Improvement Pilot Program for child care centers and family child care homes is meant to help improve the facilities through maintenance and upgrades, including but not limited to installing energy-efficient windows, creating additional classroom space, purchasing new playground equipment, replacing flooring, remediating environmental hazards such as lead or mold, or putting in child-height sinks or toilets.

A complete list of eligible uses can be found here.

In phase one of the program, to be launched this summer, the EDA will provide nearly $15 million in grants to licensed child care centers in the state to cover the costs of facility improvements.

To ensure that centers providing for underserved communities receive the funding they need to survive and thrive, 40 percent of the phase one funding will be set aside for child care providers in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts, EDA officials said.

An application for the grant will be released later this spring.

In order to be eligible, applicants:

  • May own or lease the space that will be improved;
  • Must currently enroll, or have enrolled in the 12 months prior to the date of application, at least one child receiving support through the New Jersey Department of Human Services Child Care Assistance Program;
  • Must commit to enroll in NJDHS’ quality rating improvement system, Grow NJ Kids.

While the EDA plans to expand the Child Care Facilities Improvement Pilot Program to home-based child care providers registered with NJDHS in subsequent program phases, this inaugural phase will only be open to child care centers licensed by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

Full eligibility criteria for that can be found here.

Gov. Phil Murphy said solving the child care issue is a key to the state’s future.

“An investment in the child care sector is an investment in our state’s economic future,” he said. “Working families need reliable, safe, affordable, accessible and high-quality child care. The program announced today will help us ensure that child care centers statewide can meet these needs, while simultaneously securing their long-term financial resiliency.”

Funding for phase one of the Child Care Facilities Improvement Pilot Program will be supported through the American Rescue Plan funding, as well as an additional $4.45 million in state funding.

EDA Executive Vice President of Economic Security Tara Colton underscored the important role this program will play in propelling New Jersey’s economy forward.

“We know that the COVID-19 hit child care centers particularly hard, both with respect to their enrollment perspective and the effect it had on its workers as they juggled their own families’ needs,” she said. “By supporting enhancements to child care facilities statewide, the program announced today will strengthen this important sector and accelerate the state’s economic recovery.”