image_pdf
Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson speaks at the announcement that the state will invest $250 million to help families and child care centers.

BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

With more school districts deciding to choose all-remote learning or hybrid instruction, working parents face child care challenges as the pandemic continues into the fall.

Today, Aug. 28, state officials announced subsidies to help families making under $75,000 and funding for child care providers as the school year begins. 

Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to dedicate $250 million in funding from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide support to both families and child care providers. 

“The pandemic has reinforced what we already knew — that access to adequate, affordable and safe childcare is absolutely vital to working parents and New Jersey’s families,” Christine Norbut Beyer, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, said at a press conference in Metuchen on Aug. 28. “We are working collaboratively and creatively across state government to expand childcare capacity and ensure that quality care is within reach for every New Jersey family that needs it. Through this initiative, we’re working to help families find a balance between professional responsibilities and personal needs through a robust, safe and enriching child care infrastructure in the Garden State.”

Montclair is one of 180 school districts that will be starting the school year with all-remote learning, which means that the onus of caring for children and supervising their learning will largely be on parents and guardians. 

The challenge of caring for children during COVID-19 has been especially high for working mothers, with schools closed and child care options limited. The average weekly wage is $933 for a woman in the workforce, and child care averages $11,000 a year in New Jersey, according to U.S. Census data. 

In New Jersey, women make up 60 percent of the workforce — 65 percent in Montclair — with 73 percent aged 25 to 34. 

In March, Murphy ordered all child care centers to close unless they could verify that they were caring only for the children of essential workers. The centers that did close were allowed to begin reopening in June. 

The Montclair Y was one of the few child care centers in Montclair that remained open in the spring months, since the Y provided emergency child care service for essential workers and their families. The Y will provide a learning hub for working parents in the fall.

Only half of the state’s approximate 4,000 licensed child care centers in New Jersey have reopened since the pandemic began. Another 1,800 are expected to open by October.

Montclair is home to 23 child care centers that are registered and licensed with the Department of Children and Families.

The centers also face challenges with lowered capacity due to social distancing regulations, as well. To help more centers to reopen, the state will make $55 million in funds available to all licensed child care centers and registered family child providers in New Jersey that open by Oct. 1. The funding will help with added operational costs due to new COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The state can assist nearly 6,000 child care providers with COVID-related costs, such as purchasing PPE and other supplies and materials, cleaning and sanitation.

The Department of Human Services will also provide $30 million in supplemental payments of $75 per subsidy-eligible child, per month, including infants, toddlers, and school-age children, to child care subsidy providers through the end of the calendar year. 

“The governor and the Department of Human Services are taking these actions to address some of the incredible burden working families are facing as work-from-home and remote learning occur at the same time. Families need relief, and we hope today’s actions offer some hope and opportunity for parents to get the support they need,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. 

For families

For families with children ages 5 to 13, and who meet income eligibility requirements, the state will provide subsidies that cover child care during the hours that school is in session. In the past, state subsidies covered before and after-care programs only. 

Participation in the state Child Care Subsidy Program is available to children in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of three with income up to $43,440 is eligible to enroll in the program. 

About 21,000 school-age children in New Jersey currently receive a state subsidy to support the cost of before- and after-school child care. Child care providers will be paid the state’s subsidy rate for school-age children based on the hours of care needed. The state has set aside $20 million for this program.

Another $150 million will now be available to help families who do not meet the income requirements for the Child Care Subsidy Program, but still need full or part-time child care due to their child’s school schedule. Families with incomes up to $75,000 are eligible to apply. The funding will go directly to the family’s selected child care center, and providers will be paid the state’s subsidy rate for school-age children based on the hours of care needed.

Applications for families will open in early September. 

“Now more than ever, working families need access to child care to balance the many demands they are facing during the ongoing pandemic,” Murphy said. “With these investments, we are ensuring that high quality child care is accessible and affordable for families across the state.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the state has funded state-subsidized emergency child care for essential workers at the peak of the crisis, and provided up to $20 million in grants to help child care centers and youth camps meet COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

The state also waived parent co-pays in the state’s child care subsidy program for parents who requested it due to impacts from COVID-19; and delivered personal protective equipment to emergency child care centers and family child care providers. 

Today’s numbers

Health officials reported 372 new COVID-positive cases today, Aug. 28, up from the  288 reported on Aug. 26, bringing the state total to 190,971. 

Positivity and transmission rates are dropping. The positivity rate dropped from 1.99 percent on Wednesday to 1.52 percent. The virus transmission rate is now down to 0.77 down from 0.80 on Aug. 26. 

State officials reported nine new deaths, down from the 11 deaths reported on Wednesday. The state death toll is now 14,150. The number of probable deaths was reduced from 1,829 to 1,780 on Wednesday. 

Hospitals reported 436 COVID-related hospitalizations last night, with 83 patients in ICU and 30 on ventilators. On Tuesday night, hospitals reported 425 patients, including 72 critical care patients and 29 ventilators in use.

Today, Essex County health officials revised the number of COVID-related deaths from 1,861 to 1,858. The number of cases increased by 24, to a total of 20,012 cases.

Montclair health officials reported three new cases on Thursday, Aug. 27, now totaling 496. The number of deaths remains at 54. Today’s numbers were not available. 

Testing

Essex County will have satellite testing centers set up from 4 to 6 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 1: Essex County Public Works Department, 99 West Bradford Ave., Cedar Grove
  • Thursday, Sept. 3: St. Philomena’s Church, 386 South Livingston Ave., Livingston

Testing is also available at the Weequahic Park testing site Mondays, 2 to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey will present an Emergency Food Distribution Event on Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Essex County Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Welcome Center in Newark to help families negatively impacted by the COVID-19. One thousand boxes of food will be distributed to families that have been forced out of work and are unable to afford food. 

Residents will receive one box of non-perishable food items and one box of fresh produce.