AUGUSTA, N.J. – United Way of Northern New Jersey joined with early learning experts Wednesday to call for an increase in the state’s support for early childhood education so that more ALICE families can continue to work and afford quality care for their children.

United Way teamed up with Rainbows of Learning in Sussex County during the Week of the Young Child to place a spotlight on the need for quality care for the state’s most vulnerable children.

The two shared their concerns about the growing number of families unable to afford the high cost of child care with New Jersey Senator Steven Oroho and Sussex County Freeholder Director Carl Lazzaro.

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The latest United Way ALICE Report shows 33 percent of Somerset County households can’t afford the basics. The cost of quality child care has risen by 16 percent – up to $16,500 for an infant and preschooler – putting it out of reach for many hardworking families, said United Way Director of Education initiatives Michelle Roers.

“Families who are living paycheck to paycheck – who we call ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) – as well as those in poverty often find that they cannot afford to send their children to a quality child care facility,” Roers said. “Instead, families may be forced to choose a well-meaning, but unqualified family member, friend, or neighbor. That can have long-term consequences for children and our state.”

United Way and its partners are asking state legislators to increase funding for the state’s child care subsidy program, which currently serves some 44,000 children across New Jersey and allows parents to continue working. The subsidy has not been raised since 2008 and is so low that many quality centers will not accept it, Roers said.

Despite the state’s high cost of living, New Jersey has one of the lowest subsidy rates in the country. Today, centers that accept the state’s subsidy receive just $161 per week to care for an infant. That works out to $4 an hour for a 40 hour work week.

“You couldn’t get a nice teenager to babysit your child for $4 an hour, and we’re expecting centers to attract qualified professionals at that rate,” Roers said.

About United Way of Northern New Jersey
United Way of Northern New Jersey is a nonprofit organization working to improve people’s lives and strengthen communities by focusing on Education, Income, and Health.  These are the building blocks for a good life – a quality education that leads to a stable job; the tools needed to achieve financial stability; and good health.  We lead caring communities to create long-lasting changes that transform people’s lives.  Together, united, we can inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow. United Way of Northern New Jersey serves Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties as well as portions of suburban Essex County, including the Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Livingston, Millburn-Short Hills, Montclair, Roseland, and Verona.  Give.  Advocate.  Volunteer.  LIVE UNITED.  To learn more, call 973.993.1160 or visitwww.UnitedWayNNJ.org.