NEW JERSEY – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined Monday with New Jersey advocates, providers and parents at Helping Hands Learning Academy in Rahway to discuss the devastating impact the House Republican Default on America bill would have on working families and to the child care industry which is already struggling to stay afloat from the impact and strain that the COVID-19 pandemic had on providers.
The legislation passed last week by House Republicans would cut the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Head Start funding, and WIC funding, as well as create added work requirements for SNAP benefits, and new proposed work requirements for Medicaid, gutting critical programs many working families rely on.
“Last week, with their craven Default on America bill, House Republicans voted to put parents, families, and child care providers on the chopping block,” Menendez said. “Cuts of this magnitude would make it immensely harder — if not impossible — for parents to find high-quality affordable care. They would devastate providers who are already struggling to compete with the salaries offered by the larger chains. And I for one will not rest — I will not quit — until we successfully protect child care funding and Head Start funding in our federal budget.”
The House Republicans’ bill would pour salt on the wounds of child care providers by cutting nearly $1.8 billion from the CCDBG program and $2.6 billion from Head Start. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that a 22 percent cut in Head Start would mean more than 200,000 children would lose access to the program.
Across the nation, too many families already cannot find or afford the high-quality child care they need so parents can go to work and children can thrive, and the worsening child care crisis is holding back families, child care workers, businesses, and the entire economy. Over the last three decades, the cost of child care has increased by 220%, forcing families—and mothers, in particular—to make impossible choices, and more thanhalf of all families live in child care deserts. Meanwhile, child care workers are struggling to make ends meet on poverty-level wages and child care providers are struggling to stay afloat. The crisis—which was exacerbated by the pandemic—is negatively impacting the national economy to the tune of $122 billion in economic losses each year.
According to a recent survey conducted by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) regarding the availability of infant-toddler care in New Jersey, licensed child care for babies is in short supply with only enough space to serve roughly a third of the children that need care because all parents in the household work. Furthermore, although centers report that they have the capacity to serve almost 68,000 infants and toddlers, they typically serve closer to 55,000, leaving more than 150,000 young New Jersey children without the option of center-based care. The primary reason centers reported serving fewer children than they have the capacity to serve is that they cannot find enough staff to work in the infant-toddler rooms.
Additionally, many families live in child care deserts, which are especially prevalent in rural areas as well as low-income communities. An infant-toddler child care desert is any municipality with more than 50 children under age three that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there is less than 20% of available slots for infants-toddlers that are likely to need child care. In New Jersey, according to ACNJ, a total of 231 municipalities can be classified as a desert. Of those municipalities, 124 have no licensed child care at all.
“What has become clear from the current crisis is that no one state, including New Jersey, can solve the problems that have plagued child care for decades,” said Cynthia Rice, Senior Policy Analyst for Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “And really, the only way to solve this is through a significant federal investment in this system, NOT a reduction in that investment.”
Last week, Sen. Menendez joined a group of Democratic colleagues in the Senate to reintroduce the Child Care for Working Families Act, comprehensive legislation to tackle the child care crisis and ensure families across America can find and afford the high-quality child care they need. The bill will ensure that working families pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care, early childhood educators earn livable wages, and families receive more child care options in their communities through the creation of three programs, including a Universal Preschool Program.
In addition to Senator Menendez, the Child Care for Working Families Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Murray (D-Wash.), Casey (D-Pa.), Kaine (D-Va.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Booker (D-N.J.), Brown (D-Ohio), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Coons (D-Del.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Feinstein (D.-Calif.), Fetterman (D-Pa.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), King (I-Maine), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Luján (D-N.M.), Markey (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Padilla (D-Calif.), Reed (D-R.I.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Shaheen (D-N.H.), Smith (D-Minn.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Welch (D-Vt.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Wyden (D-Ore.). Representative Wild (D-Pa.-07) joined Representative Scott in leading reintroduction of the legislation alongside 43 cosponsors in the House.
Sen. Menendez has long been a strong supporter of increased child care support for families. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senator, along with Democratic colleagues secured $10 billion in additional funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program through the Consolidated Appropriations Act signed by President Trump in December 2020. In March 2021, Sen. Menendez and Democratic colleagues, through the American Rescue Plan, appropriated an additional $40 billion in stabilization grants through the CCDBG program, including $694,327,527 to support New Jersey child care providers. In August 2021, Sen. Menendez also secured $48,994,049 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) to support several Head Start early childhood education programs across New Jersey.