As the minimum wage rises to $10 an hour on July 1, child care providers like me, who care for the more than 50,000 children from low-income New Jersey families may be forced to go out of business. We rely on state assistance or “child care subsidies” to pay for that care, as child care costs are often out-of-reach for those struggling families who are eligible. While the child care community fully supports the minimum wage increase, we cannot pay for that it without additional state child care dollars to offset our staffs’ wage increases. In fact, between June 30th and July 1st, there will be a $19 million funding gap in child care assistance due to the first increase in the minimum wage.
Child care is very different than other businesses that will be affected by the minimum wage increase, such as restaurants or stores. We cannot cut staff because of federal and state mandated ratios of children per adult that protect child safety. Even small increases in the minimum wage can mean huge impacts on our programs because roughly 60 percent of our operational costs are linked with paying our staffs.
And we cannot pass the cost on to our families. They already rely on this state assistance so that they can go to work and cannot afford additional child care costs.
The consequences are dire, as our options are limited. Many of us will either stop serving infants—the costliest age group to provide care, stop serving families on subsidy or close our doors entirely, if we do not receive increased state subsidy payments. Our concern is that these families will have fewer options than us and look for care that may not be regulated by the state, potentially putting children at-risk. We cannot afford to have our children in such an option.
In the proposed state budget, Governor Murphy and the Legislature must show their commitment to families by taking action to increase state child care subsidy investments by $19 million to match the continued increases in the minimum wage. Our businesses, our families and our children are depending on it.
Winifred Smith, Director
Zadie’s of the Oranges and Zadie’s Early Childhood Center