As New Jersey emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll finds many parents struggling to find adequate child care, a much-touted obstacle for transitioning residents back to the workforce.
That’s according to a report released July 21 and prepared jointly by Fairleigh Dickinson University and the nonprofit Nicholson Foundation based in Newark.
The poll found that 45% of respondents were dependent on family for child care, while 35% had no child care at all. It relied on responses from 764 New Jersey adults with children up to 3 years of age interviewed between May and June 8.
Of those 35% who had no child care, nearly half – 41% – had annual household incomes of less than $50,000.
“A post-pandemic economic boom will put pressure on labor markets, and employers may find it increasingly difficult to attract the workers they need,” reads a statement in the poll from Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
More than half – 54% – of parents without child care cited the fact that they are a stay-at-home parent, while 25% cited the cost and 23% said they were still worried about COVID-19.
Hundreds of child care facilities were forced to close during the onset of the pandemic, with the exception of centers that looked after children of essential workers and first responders.
If New Jersey invests wisely in expanding options for quality child care, including raising child care reimbursement rates if needed to recruit providers, parents, businesses and the state treasury will benefit in the long run.
– Steven Barnett, senior co-director, National Institute for Early Education Research
The poll found that 31% of respondents said their child went at least six weeks without child care. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they were able to work from home and look over their kid, while 36% said they needed to take time off from work to do so.
“If New Jersey invests wisely in expanding options for quality child care, including raising child care reimbursement rates if needed to recruit providers, parents, businesses and the state treasury will benefit in the long run,” Barnett said.
To that end, Gov. Phil Murphy last month approved the use of $100 million in federal COVID-relief funds for the child care industry.
“Without access to child care, many New Jerseyans are unable to work to provide for themselves and their families,” the governor said in a July 2 statement.
Federal dollars will go to child care businesses could use to improve their brick and mortar facilities, and money for workforce development and technical assistance, under the new law.
“This law is important to the entire business community, not just the child care industry, because, without access to safe child care, parents cannot return to work,” reads a statement from Chrissy Buteas, who heads government affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.e