By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller, Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne were at Newark Liberty International Airport Friday morning to greet Vice President Kamala Harris, who visited New Jersey — including a stop in Montclair — to push for broader COVID-19 vaccination eligibility and expanded early childcare availability.
“It was my pleasure to greet the vice president this morning and offer my support as we remain laser-focused on increasing vaccinations and making sure the entire Build Back Better agenda gets over the finish line. It’s time to make critical investments in America,” Spiller told Montclair Local on Friday, Oct. 8. He thanked the vice president for coming to Montclair “to advocate for working- and middle-class families.”
The vice president also participated in a roundtable conversation at Montclair State University with Murphy, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill and five educators, including Dr. Renee Baskerville, on federal investment in childcare through the Biden-Harris administration’s economic agenda.
Harris’s remarks discussed “the significance of supporting our children, supporting our parents,” ABC 7 reported.
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Baskerville told Montclair Local she is hopeful because federal investment in childcare is a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris administration’s economic agenda. At the East Orange School District Early Childhood Department where she works, she sees firsthand every day what a difference having quality early education can do for not only children, but also families’ ability to work, volunteer and even continue their educational pursuits, she said.
“I put this right up there with affordable, accessible healthcare for all as a lifeline,” Baskerville said.
The five women of the panel and Sherrill, Baskerville said, shared their personal stories and how childcare plays a role in their lives.
“They all feel that childcare and paid leave for both partners is critical to maintaining strong families, educating their children,” Baskerville said. “Some even went to college while working and raising their children, and were able to do so because of affordable, accessible quality child care, their individual ‘villages’ and strong relationships with partners and in-laws.”
The Biden administration is pushing for expanded child care as part of a multi-trillion-dollar budget reconciliation package that includes funding for universal preschool, affordable child care and an extension of the child tax credit. The plan aims to get mothers back to work and help fund child care centers, many of which are struggling to stay open. Democrats had proposed a package of as much as $3.5 trillion, but are in negotiations with party moderates who want to curb the spending.
According to a report by NJ.com, the vice president said: “A working person cannot go to work if they have no one to take care of their kids.”
Murphy, who has endorsed the bill, said the child care provisions in the Biden spending bill “would be a game changer for New Jersey,” according to the report.
Harris stopped in to visit the staff and children at Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University, which offers child care beginning at 12 weeks through age 5 and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The vice president was expected Friday afternoon to take a tour of the vaccination site at Essex County College.
In July at a vaccination mobilization event in Michigan, Harris said the administration is leaving “no stone unturned” in getting information about coronavirus vaccines out and making them more accessible.
“Because we know getting vaccinated — here’s the thing: Getting vaccinated is the single-best defense against COVID-19 and its variants. It’s the single-best defense,” she said at the time.
The vaccine is currently available to those 12 years of age and older. But Pfizer is currently conducting clinical trials in children ages 6 months to 11 years and Thursday requested emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 in September or October.
Spiller, who did not accompany Harris to MSU and will not be at the vaccination site, said: “Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, we are starting to turn the corner on the coronavirus pandemic.”