N.J. will pay bonuses to help child care providers recruit, keep workers

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to a student in a pre-K class at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Palisades Park, N.J. Murphy toured the school before announcing plans to plans to provide universal pre-K for all families in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to a student in a pre-K class at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Palisades Park, N.J. Murphy toured the school before announcing plans to plans to provide universal pre-K for all families in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New Jersey will use federal stimulus dollars to offer $1,000 bonuses to help child care providers recruit new workers and retain existing staff.

It comes as many parents struggle to return to the workforce because of a shortage of workers in the child care sector.

It’s part of what the Murphy administration says is a more than $700 million investment in the child care sector, mostly using funding from the American Rescue plan. Officials said Wednesday that their goal is to reduce the cost of child care for families; support higher wages for child care workers; and provide incentives for providers to improve their services.

“These supports will continue to support both families and providers,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday during his bi-weekly COVID-19 briefing. “We know that child care is one of the key challenges facing families, especially single moms, as they rejoin our workforce.”

The administration said the bonuses will come this winter with funding for additional bonuses coming in the summer.

In addition to the $1,000 bonuses, the state also plans to distribute grants to child care providers to help stabilize their operations.

Grants for licensed child care centers will range from $20,000 to 80,000, while in-home family child care providers will be eligible for $2,000. The money can be used for operating expenses, such as wages and benefits, rent and utilities and facilities, improvement and maintenance. Grants will also be made available to summer camp providers in 2022 and 2023 to cover COVID-related costs and help families pay for camp.

An assistance program that began in September — providing up to $300 for full-time care or $150 for part-time care, per child — has been extended to December 2023.

“During the pandemic, we’ve invested an additional $400 million in coronavirus relief funding to stabilize providers facing closure and fluctuating attendance and to help parents with the unexpected costs of child care during remote learning,” said Sara Adelman, New Jersey’s acting human services commissioner.

Some of that money was used to launch a temporary emergency child care program for essential workers, like police officers and medical professionals, and to cover the costs of full-time rates for school-age children in the state’s child care assistance program during remote learning, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Adelson added that $100 million was invested, prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020, to fund increases in reimbursement rates and worker wages and reducing co-payments in the state’s child care assistance program.

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