Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz today unveiled a comprehensive childcare bill package aiming to address the needs of those who make up the state’s childcare infrastructure, including providers, employees and parents. In total, the package is estimated to be worth around $350 million.
The legislation marks the first major policy initiative for New Jersey’s new Senate majority leader, and will additionally be sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Senator Sandra Cunningham.
Today in Trenton, Ruiz said that the pandemic highlighted existing challenges within the state’s childcare system, and further underscored how intimately access to childcare is tied to the economy and success of New Jersey businesses.
“As we face worker shortages across industries, reducing the cost of childcare will allow more parents to return to the workforce,” she said.
NJBIA was one of the main stakeholders that worked with Senator Ruiz on the package.
“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,” explained NJBIA Director of Government Affairs, Alexis Bailey.
She added that the package will also increase assistance for low-income families, mandate a mixed delivery system for pre-K, and maintain 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,” Bailey said.
The bill package includes the following:
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% 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.
The bills cannot be officially introduced until the next Senate quorum.
Ruiz added that she is optimistic that Gov. Phil Murphy would be supportive if the bills were to make it to his desk, citing the administration’s recognition of the importance of childcare to the overall health of the state’s economy as well as its impact on families.
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