This is how unaffordable child care is for most NJ families
👶 A new report finds childcare is a major problem in NJ
👶 Most families struggle to afford the most basic childcare
👶 NJ lawmakers could soon give more families help
A new study finds the typical New Jersey family is spending 19.1% of its total income on childcare.
That’s higher than the total spent by the average family in the U.S., which is 17.8%.
According to Cynthia Rice, the senior policy analyst at Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the state provides financial assistance to very low-income families for childcare “and then everybody else, at least from a policy perspective, are considered wealthy, and that couldn’t be further from the truth."
Not enough help is available
She said the amount of help that’s provided is on a sliding scale, dependent on total family income, a child’s age and the total number of children in the family, but only families with a total income of $55,500 a year or less get help paying for childcare.
“If they make $1 over that amount then they’re not eligible for any type of assistance, think about just living in our state costs so much, the burden that places on families," she said. “$55,500 for a family of four does not get a family very far, let alone paying for the high cost of care.”
Legislation S2480 is being considered to increase the threshold for childcare assistance to $83,000.
“Every family is struggling regardless of their income. If they can afford it (childcare) they can’t find it, if they can’t afford it that’s an even bigger problem.”
She said all too often that means the mother in the family is forced to stop working.
“Or the mother has cut her hours or is doing the type of work that may not be what she really wants to, but she has to meet the needs of the family,” Rice said.
She noted another problem is empty slots in childcare facilities.
“Not because of parent demand, but because there are no teachers to fill those classrooms because they can go elsewhere and make more money," she said. “Too often the childcare providers can only afford to offer minimum wage and no benefits, and as a result people are going elsewhere.”
Without question many New Jersey families are using unlicensed, unregulated off-the-books childcare services but Rice said “we don’t have any data on that and how many children are in that., but we do know that what we do have is not enough.”
How to begin to solve the problem
She said state leaders must start to look at the child care crisis as an issue that must be addressed, similar to law enforcement, providing quality education at schools or fire protection laws.
“We need childcare not just for working families or for the economy, but to make sure that children have that strong foundation to be successful once they get into kindergarten," she said.
She also pointed out federal help is needed for families in Jersey and other states to be able to get proper childcare at a reasonable rate.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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