TRENTON, N.J. – The pandemic business landscape challenged child care centers, often small businesses owned and operated by women of color. Assemblywoman Aura Dunn successfully advocated for subsidies to help those businesses stay open based on enrollment numbers, not attendance. Her bill was signed into law in December 2021.
That law, scheduled to sunset June 30, may get an extension through Dunn’s bill (A4177) that cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday.
“We know a third of the state’s nearly one million businesses permanently shuttered because of lockdowns. Child care centers are not just another business, they are a necessity for women trying to make ends meet and know their children are safely cared for,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “Extending these subsidies to ensure the doors stay open benefits everyone.”
A May 2023 report by the Rutgers University Center for Women and Work found that the child care sector is still reeling from government lockdowns imposed in 2020. Nineteen of the state’s 21 counties experienced child care workforce declines between 2020 and 2021. Trends show that despite the consequences of lockdowns, the state’s child care supply has for years not met the demand, which is only expected to grow.
“There has been a monumental shift in the child care industry. They really are the center for business owners and families alike, and our laws need to reflect that reality,” Dunn said.
The bill will extend enrollment-based subsidy payments to licensed child care centers – defined as a center that provides care to six or more children ages 13 and younger who attend less than 24 hours a day – through June 30, 2025.
“The lockdowns made an already precarious situation worse, and disproportionately affected minorities,” Dunn added. “While we continue to pick up the pieces post-Covid, we need to give these business owners and families peace of mind that these centers are there for them.”