ACNJ and U.S. Rep Gottheimer Host Roundtable to Discuss Child Care Funding as Federal COVID-Relief Runs Out

Posted on April 26, 2024

Federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) Stabilization Grants kept child care centers from closing, but the temporary aid, which expired in September 2023, was a short-term fix to a long-standing problem and robust funding is needed to create a sustainable child care infrastructure, according to advocates at a roundtable hosted by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and U.S. Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5)

Held at the Little Learners Child Development Center in Hackensack, the event highlighted New Jersey's and our nation's fractured child care system. Many providers struggle to sustain high-quality early childhood education while also paying child care workers competitive wages and keeping tuition affordable for parents. And once providers run out of the COVID-Relief funds they will be faced with decisions that will impact the child care workforce, parents and ultimately the economy.

Recent survey findings of more than 100 NJ child care providers revealed that the federal child care stabilization aid not only allowed centers to remain open, but 89% of respondents also said they were able to apply the aid towards personnel costs and increased staff wages.

"Now, four years later, we are still trying to bounce back from COVID: maxing to our facility's capacity, hiring not only credible but dedicated staff, and recuperating the income loss. We greatly appreciate [the COVID-relief aid] given to our center, but it can't stop there, we still need more help," said Dawn Cleveland, Owner and Director at Little Learners Child Development Center. "Being a high quality child care center within New Jersey is far from easy, with the weight of trying to compete with our center's tuition prices, the cost of supplies, and the biggest struggle: staffing our classrooms."

"It's time to move beyond addressing the COVID‐related emergencies in child care and truly develop solutions addressing wage compensation and a sustainable early childhood system. Without the ARP federal dollars, it is estimated that about 1,300 programs in New Jersey will close, impacting 104,000 children and 6,800 teachers. The economic impact translates to about $378 million in lost earnings for parents, a $453 million decrease in employer productivity, and $18 million less in state income tax," said Shadaya Bennett, ACNJ senior legislative analyst.

“Given how important child care is to our children, families, and communities, you’d think that we’d be flush with daycares and nurseries. But, the reason why we’re all here today is that child care in Jersey is actually hard-to-come-by these days – and it’s incredibly expensive,” Gottheimer said. “I’m excited to convene today’s roundtable with child care providers and advocates to discuss the challenges facing Jersey’s child care system and share more about my work in Congress to make childcare more affordable, especially the urgent need to pass bipartisan legislation expanding the Child Tax Credit. It passed the House overwhelmingly and now it’s waiting for a vote in the Senate.”

“ACNJ thanks Congressman Gottheimer for highlighting the need for investment in New Jersey’s child care system. To strengthen and sustain the child care infrastructure, targeted funding is needed to ensure families have access to high-quality options in a system with a skilled workforce dedicated to nurturing our youngest residents."

In response to the looming child care funding shortfall, ACNJ's #NJVotes4Kids budget campaign is calling for state lawmakers to prioritize public investments in early childhood in the upcoming FY2025 budget. To learn more, visit