(TRENTON) – New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson on Tuesday announced $38 million in new investments in child care to help more families find services they need and to advance quality child care.

“Children are the foundation of our state’s future, and strong childhood development and early learning are vital to helping our children thrive,” First Lady Murphy said. “The Murphy Administration is committed to helping families find the quality child care they need, which is why I’m thrilled we’re making this crucial investment. This is another critical step towards building a stronger future for our state.”

 “Building a stronger and fairer New Jersey means helping working families by ensuring that they have the peace of mind that comes from quality child care,” Commissioner Johnson said. “Today’s announcement significantly improves our child care subsidy program payment rates, creates new incentives to expand infant care and prioritizes quality care and services. The Murphy Administration is committed to supporting early childhood development and to increasing access to quality, affordable child care for families.” 

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New Jersey’s child care subsidy payment rates for child care centers have remained relatively flat for the past decade, but the state will now be using $30 million to boost child care subsidies that help families with lower incomes to afford child care who are working, in school or in training programs.

The highest rate increase is set for infant care.  Infant care subsidy rates will increase by 25 percent - from $724 per month to $904 per month.  Toddler rates will increase 6 percent - from $717 per month to $761 per month - and pre-school rates will increase 10 percent, from $585 per month to $645 per month.

Payment rates will increase further for programs that are rated by Grow NJ Kids, New Jersey’s quality rating improvement system for child care programs. For instance, infant care rates will increase to at least $1,012 per month for Grow NJ Kids three-star rated programs.

In addition, $1.2 million will be made available to create a new $100-per-infant-per-month incentive for new infant care slots - available for 12 months on top of the base rate and any Grow NJ Kids incentive payment increases - to provide a further incentive for child care centers to expand infant care.

Advocates have long noted the demand and unmet need for infant care slots in subsidized child care programs and the importance of increasing rates for these services.  These new investments are intended to start to close that gap.

“The expansion of child care funding, announced by DHS today, is a great step forward in building a strong, high-quality child care system in New Jersey, particularly for our youngest children,” said Cecilia Zalkind, the president and chief executive officer of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “As ACNJ’s research has found, access to quality care for babies is in short supply. This additional funding will help to expand child care options for working families and provide the strong educational environments that babies need to develop and thrive. ACNJ commends Commissioner Carole Johnson, who listened to the concerns of child care stakeholders throughout the state and made it a top priority for the department. “

“This is very exciting news," said Dr. Beverly Lynn, CEO of Programs for Parents. "An investment in children is an investment in our future. This is great news for families who need quality child care, children who benefit from quality child care and child care providers. This is a positive step forward for New Jersey."  

The Department also is making $6.8 million available for grants to fund centers’ acquisition of classroom curricula to enhance the quality of the child care experience and physical plant improvements to support healthy and safe environments.  Grants will also be used to help programs participate in Grow NJ Kids and support staff training.

 “Research shows children who are in quality child care and early learning programs when they are young are better prepared for kindergarten with better reading skills, more math skills and larger vocabularies,” said Natasha Johnson, director of the Department of Human Services’ Division of Family Development. “Grow NJ Kids is helping New Jersey’s child care providers enhance program quality, and these new investments in quality rate incentives will reward their success.”

About 5,000 child care providers in New Jersey participate in the New Jersey’s child care subsidy program, which serves approximately 100,000 children per year.  The New Jersey child care subsidy program is funded through the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and state appropriations.  This new funding is a result of increases in the CCDF.  All rate increases will take effect in January 2019.

Today’s announcement builds upon Governor Murphy’s efforts to improve child care. He recently signed into law a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help more than 70,000 New Jerseyans earning less than $60,000 per year care for a child or other dependent.

“Phil and I are committed to a New Jersey that works for all families, and that includes increasing access to quality child care choices and the information they need to make the best decisions for their families,” First Lady Murphy said. “We are investing in New Jersey’s future.”

“Quality, affordable child care is vital not only to development but to supporting hard-working parents in helping their families to thrive,” Commissioner Johnson said. “Quality child care is good for everyone.”