Trenton – Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz today announced a comprehensive child care bill package to address the needs of providers, employees and parents. The legislation, which will also be sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, marks the first major policy initiative for the new Majority Leader.
“These investments will not only benefit our parents and our child care providers but also our entire state,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Access to affordable, high quality child care improves outcomes and pays dividends, every dollar invested offers a $4-$9 return in individual and community benefits. As we face worker shortages across industries, reducing the cost of child care will allow more parents to return to the workforce at a time when we need it most. This multipronged approach works to tackle this issue from every angle to ensure the maximum impact on our economy and our children.”
“High quality and affordable child care should be accessible to every family in the State. These bills will help provide that accessibility by expanding the State’s child care subsidy program to reach more families in need, while also increasing the number of spots available for infants and toddlers,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Additionally, by providing tax credits for staff members we can help our child care providers retain the employees they need to ensure a sustainable, high quality workforce.”
“Parents of infants and toddlers in New Jersey deserve accessible proficient child care programs. It is the responsibility of school districts receiving preschool education aid to assist in achieving this goal,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), chair of the Senate Economic Growth Committee. “These bills illustrate the State’s commitment to the advancement of early childhood care.”
“The quality of early childhood care greatly impacts the course of one’s life. This is why a department targeted at the betterment of care and education for infants and toddlers is extremely crucial,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “This legislation, along with the rest of the package, represents a commitment to improving early childhood education in ways that will work to reduce the achievement gap and greatly benefit future generations.”
The bill package includes:
S.2475 – Ruiz/Cunningham: The bill would establish the Department of Early Childhood to provide focused and integrated development of 0 to 5 care and education.
S.2476 – Ruiz/Vitale: The bill would provide funding for the expansion of infant and toddler seats by 1,000, reimbursed at $22,000 per seat. The grant program would prioritize providers in communities identified as childcare deserts, areas with high percentage low-income families, as well as those that align their childcare center with high quality preschool.
S.2477 – Ruiz/Cruz-Perez: The bill would require new preschool programs or seat expansions to use private providers for at least 50 percent of their preschool slots.
S.2478 – Ruiz/Vitale: The bill would extend the enrollment based payment model currently set to expire on June 30, 2022. The bill would extend the program for three years, with a report on the impact at the end of this year and the end of the three years.
S.2479 – Ruiz: The bill would provide tax incentives to employers who provide childcare in their facilities, reimburse parents for their childcare expenses or contract with private providers so their employees can enroll their children in those childcare programs.
S.1099 – Vitale/Ruiz: The bill allows a gross income tax credit for a childcare staff members who have been employed by a childcare provider or worked as a registered family day care provider for a minimum of 1,260 hours for a six month period during the taxable year.
S.2480 – Ruiz/Vitale: The bill would extend childcare subsidies to families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line. Currently, families earning up to 250% FPL are eligible.
S.2465 – Vitale/Ruiz: The bill would require the Department of Human Services to establish a quality-based reimbursement system for registered family day care providers participating in Grow NJ Kids.
SJR.79 – Ruiz/Cunningham/Vitale/Cruz-Perez: The resolution would designate the first full week of April as the “Week of the Young Child” in New Jersey to recognize the importance of high-quality early childhood education that is affordable and accessible.
Advocacy groups and stakeholders joined the Senators for the announcement of the bill package, expressing their support for the transformative legislation.
“ACNJ commends Senator Ruiz for her leadership in sponsoring this critically important legislation. Childcare is essential for families and for our economy and is the educational opportunity for our youngest children. These bills will help families struggling to find affordable childcare and strengthen childcare programs, both center-based and family childcare. They will also expand opportunities for quality early education for infants and toddlers, which we know is the most difficult for parents to find and for programs to provide. Senator Ruiz is a champion for our youngest children and ACNJ is committed to working with her to ensure that these exciting proposals become law.” – Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ President/CEO
“This comprehensive bill package will provide critical assistance to working families, childcare providers and employers who continue to face workforce shortages across our state by creating tax incentives for the business community and grant opportunities for the creation of new childcare slots. It also increases assistance for low-income families, mandates a mixed delivery system for pre-K and maintains enrollment-based subsidy payments for providers through 2025. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, it is critical that our state has robust childcare options to meet the needs of the workforce, especially mothers who have left the workforce at alarming rates.” – Alexis Bailey, NJBIA Director of Government Affairs
“Our Chamber is very supportive of initiatives that allow women to have a more equitable and supportive workplace. This initiative helps women have employment opportunities that can get them to a fulfilling career. In addition, more families can access high-quality, affordable childcare, so their kids are taken care of, and parents can return to work.” – Carlos Medina, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President/CEO
“The New Jersey NAACP is proud to support this initiative, including legislation that seeks to provide for a fully functioning, equitable, and accessible childcare system that supports the needs of young children, working families, and childcare providers. We’re happy to partner with Senate Majority Leader Ruiz to amplify the need for a robust childcare system that sets out to ensure children and their families have access to quality education and economic mobility. This initiative aligns with our national mission which includes the assurance of social, economic, and educational access and equality.” – Richard Smith, NJ NAACP President
“The members of the New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children thank Senator Ruiz for her support of and dedication to improving the early education system in New Jersey. This is a tremendous first step toward building a transformative system of childcare that will improve the lives of young children, their families and early childhood professionals. While we know there is continued work to do at both the state and federal level to address the true depth and scope of issues, we are excited for such an important first step.” – Meghan Tavormina, NJAEYC President
“The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) supports legislation that helps businesses, large and small, and makes our state more economically competitive. Most families cannot afford in-home childcare, especially Black families. This legislation will curb absenteeism, which ultimately will increase workforce productivity.” – John Harmon, African American Chamber of Commerce President
“Expanding access to childcare is a policy priority for the Latino Action Network Foundation. Latina women are disproportionately affected by the ‘motherhood’ penalty. If NJ wants to make a commitment to bridging gender pay gaps, we need systemic responses like Senator Ruiz’s bill that support Latina women in participating in the workforce.” – Jesselly De La Cruz, Latino Action Network Foundation Executive Director