TRENTON - When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked New Jersey in mid-March and sent home 1.4 million school children for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, parents were scrambling to provide at-home child care and academic instruction as the economy collapsed.

With Wednesday’s announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy allowing school districts unable to provide a safe learning environment to offer remote learning, many parents are facing the same dilemma: To stay home with their children or go to work.

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20thDist.) said New Jersey families cannot afford any more mandated at-home learning and child care. That is why he is proposing legislation this afternoon that would give working families grants for tutoring and child care services, funded through the federal CARES Act, known as the “New Jersey Family Child Care and Tutoring Relief Act.” 

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If federal aid should fall short, Holley is proposing state tax credits in 2021 to make up the difference. The program would be in place through June 30, 2021, as per the proposed legislation, to be formally introduced by the end of the week.

“Families are crying out for help; this Executive Order for remote learning spells disaster for people who need to return to work and creates an additional burden on all families,” Holley said. “There needs to be financial support that can provide children with quality care and tutoring assistance, serving as a safety net.”

When the public schools closed in mid-March, Holley said, New Jersey families met an immediate crisis on two fronts.  Parents needed to stay at home to care for their children. Meanwhile, as school districts scrambled to develop virtual curricula, many children fell through the cracks, unable to learn via remote learning.

“That third-grade student who abruptly was forced into remote learning in March did not learn what he or she needed to learn in third grade,” Holley said. “Now, it is approaching fall, and that student is beginning fourth grade. If he or she couldn’t learn remotely as a third grader, how is he or she going to suddenly learn fourth grade material? That is why our families our desperate for tutorial services. Our kids need to catch up. Keeping them home, without support, creates a long-term psychological and academic problem.”

The proposed bill would:

  • Provide families with financial support to pay for childcare and tutoring service costs for school aged children due to remote learning in the 2020-21 school year. 
  • The state Department of Human Services (DHS) will develop an application for families to submit information. The department shall process applications and distribute grant funds in an efficient and expedient manner. 
  • Grant amounts shall be determined based upon the availability of federal funding. The Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the DHS, shall establish a tax credit against the state tax.

“The state Legislature needs to intervene with this bill, ensuring our families have a fighting chance for success.” Holley added.