09/27/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/27/2023 09:08
TRENTON, N.J. - Assemblywoman Aura Dunn is sounding the alarm on a looming financial crisis that could cripple the state's child care industry and push women out of the workforce as pandemic-era funding for the sector ends Sept. 30. She is working on a package of bills to make child care more affordable for families and create more stable funding for providers.
"New Jersey needs to prioritize quality child care and quickly, because providers may not be able to recover this time. A shuttered child care center not only hurts the business owners, who are more often than not women and minorities, but also the working families, children and the economy overall," Dunn (R-Morris) explained.
One policy think tank estimates 104,000 New Jersey children could lose care and 1,300 child care programs could close as a result of the loss of federal funding.
"Providers are going to be forced to raise prices and parents will no longer be able to afford care because wages are not keeping up with inflation. New Jerseyans are struggling and I'm afraid that women will be the first to leave the workplace because of unavailable or unaffordable child care. It will move New Jersey backwards in terms of opportunities for women," Dunn said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's national database of childcare prices, the cost for infant care in New Jersey averages nearly $15,000 a year. Out-of-pocket preschool costs are approximately $12,000 a year.
"Our families and small businesses deserve more stability. Investing in resources like high quality and affordable child care is an investment in our state's future. It's why I am pushing for bigger child tax credits and more reliable support for child care providers," Dunn said.
Dunn plans on introducing a bill to increase the amount of the state child tax credit while also expanding the income and age limits to $100,000 from $80,000, and to 11 years old from 5 years old. Dunn had attempted to expand the state's child tax credit from the floor of the Assembly last year, but was ultimately voted down by Democrats.
"My hope and intention is to garner wide bipartisan support for my stand-alone bill that will go a long way towards lifting children out of poverty and keeping women at work," Dunn added.
Other bills in the package would urge the federal government to restore its child tax credit to 2021 levels to ensure that families receive sufficient financial support, and permanently codify the provisions in her bill that became law last year that temporarily based child care provider subsidies on enrollment instead of attendance.
"The benefits of child tax credits and enrollment-based child care subsidies cannot be overstated, especially for families and businesses in New Jersey, one of the most expensive states in the nation," Dunn said. "My bill package will buoy the child care industry during turbulent times, while acknowledging the rising costs of raising a child in New Jersey."
Dunn said the persistent issues of affordable and available child care will only worsen after Sept. 30, even if the effects are not felt immediately by families or providers.
"I am continuing to work on policies with industry and education leaders, parents and other stakeholders to create a system of care that best suits the needs of New Jersey families today and in the future," said Dunn. "However, we are approaching the edge of a cliff, so New Jersey must act sooner rather than later. This package will keep us on solid footing as we develop additional solutions to more accessible and affordable child care."