TRENTON, NJ — Working families and those in need across New Jersey will see increases to support in paying for child care and cash assistance.
The Murphy administration announced Thursday boosts to two key areas to assist families and individuals: a 20 percent rise in WorkFirst NJ cash assistance benefits for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance; and a $54 million increase in funding for the state child care subsidy program.
The announcements build on the administration's ongoing effort to achieve what Gov. Phil Murphy calls "a stronger and fairer New Jersey," coming on the heels of a 10 percent increase in cash assistance programs and a $30 million boost to lower child care rates last year. The increases were included in the state budget for the current fiscal year.
"The Murphy Administration is committed to helping families get on the strongest possible financial footing," New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said in a statement.
Under this year's increase, a family of three under WorkFirst NJ will see their maximum benefits payment increase to $559 per month from $466, while an individual under General Assistance will see their maximum benefit payment increase to $185 per month from $154.
Families are provided temporary cash assistance and support services through the WorkFirst NJ TANF program, while individuals and couples in need with no dependent children receive support through General Assistance.
These support services include emergency housing assistance; temporary utility, rental or mortgage assistance; job training; mental health and addictions support; and counseling.
The TANF increase took effect Aug. 1 and the General Assistance increase took effect Sept. 1.
"These increases and the benefits provided to families and individuals in these programs are critical in protecting the most vulnerable New Jerseyans," said Human Services Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira.
Last year, Murphy and the Legislature also worked together to remove the punitive WorkFirst NJ family cap that unfairly limited family benefits regardless of family size.
For the state child care program, meanwhile, subsidies to families who receive support will increase by as much as 10 percent, depending on the age of the child.
This will be implemented in two phases, with the first installment occurring this month and the second in January. Added funding is available to support and incentivize quality improvement among child care providers.
New Jersey’s child care subsidy program helps families with lower-to-moderate incomes who are working, in training, or in school to afford child care. About 5,000 child care providers in the state participate in the program, which serves approximately 100,000 children per year.
“A mother should never have to choose between paying her rent and keeping her baby in quality child care,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Investing in child care is a critical component to reducing maternal and infant mortality as well as a commitment to New Jersey families, gender equality, and the general wellbeing of our children.”
The Murphy administration cites that, altogether in the last two years, support for infant care will have increased by nearly 40 percent — from about $724 a month to $994 by Jan. 1. For parents who select an infant care provider with a three-star quality rating from our Grow NJ Kids quality improvement program, that rate will have jumped even further, reaching $1,093.
Additionally, care rates will have risen from $717 in to $830 per month and pre-school rates will have risen from $585 to $690 per month by January, with higher rates for quality rated programs.
“Quality, affordable child care is what working families want and need to succeed in New Jersey,” Johnson said. “The Murphy administration is making child care a priority because we know that it is hard to be successful at work or in school if you don’t have confidence that your children are getting the care they need."
Grow NJ Kids, New Jersey’s Quality Rating Improvement System, is the state program to raise the quality of child care and early learning across the state. Grow NJ Kids gives child care and early learning programs resources to assess and improve their programs, while providing parents with information that allows them to evaluate the quality of programs and make the best choices for their child.
“Children who are in quality early learning programs when they are young are better prepared with better reading and math skills,” said Natasha Johnson, Assistant Commissioner 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 further reward their success.”