NJ childcare centers need extra $19M to afford new minimum wage
The Garden State’s leading child advocacy group is planning a big rally at the Statehouse on Thursday.
Before the event gets underway, Advocates for Children of New Jersey will deliver a petition with more than a thousand signatures to Gov. Phil Murphy and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly that calls for an additional $19 million in child care subsidy funding to be included in the new state budget.
Ceil Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said with the minimum wage rising from $8.85 to $10 an hour on July 1, many of the licensed child care centers across the state will be required to pay their workers a higher salary, but it’s money they simply do not have.
She explained many child care center budgets in New Jersey are already stretched to the max, and they are not able to charge their low income clients more because they simply cannot afford to pay any more, so state child care subsidies must be raised to head off a potential disaster.
“Without doing this, centers risk serving fewer families, reducing staff hours or even closing their doors entirely," she said.
Zalkind said ACNJ is calling on the state to increase the subsidy by $19 million because that’s how much it will cost to close the gap between a higher minimum wage cost and what child care facilities collect to run their facilities.
The state allocates $280 million a year for child care subsidy funding, which includes some funding from the federal government.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey senior policy advisor Cynthia Rice said child care centers across the state have supported raising the minimum wage but at the same time have been expressing extreme concern about this looming issue for quite a while.
She said without the additional $19 million subsidy centers will either close or have to raise prices and many lower income families will be forced to put their kids into unlicensed, unregulated care, “which means that our most vulnerable families will be most greatly affected.”
Rice said in some cases, other family members may wind up becoming babysitters but the children “could also go into unregulated care, which we don’t know what the quality will be.”
There’s about 3,000 child care providers throughout the state. Licensed child care centers must have certain adult-to-child ratios to make sure children are properly monitored. But if a center is not licensed, no such safeguards exist.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com