Read ACNJ’s FY2025 Budget Testimony

Posted on March 20, 2024


TO: Members of the Senate Budget Committee

FROM: Shadaya Bennett, Senior Legislative Analyst, Advocates for Children of New Jersey

DATE: March 19, 2024

RE: SFY25 Budget

Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget.
ACNJ commends the Administration and the Legislature for continued investments in programs that benefit New Jersey’s children and families. From the state child tax credit, investment in the pre-K through 12 system, funding for programs that mitigate food insecurity amongst children, and support for the statewide home visiting program and other maternal health initiatives – we can all agree that New Jersey remains steadfast in its commitment to investing in the development and success of our youngest residents.
While our values are reflected in policy provisions aimed at making New Jersey the best place to have and raise a child, it is crucial to continue building on these efforts by strategically investing in key initiatives to benefit current and future generations.

Child care: New Jersey’s child care system is in a long-standing crisis which can be characterized by a lack of accessibility, staffing shortages, and affordability challenges. These factors make access to affordable child care more difficult, which hinders parents’ participation in the workforce, increases financial strain on families, and, most importantly, limits children's access to early care and education. To combat these issues, strengthen the system, and ensure children and families have access to quality options – we request the Legislature’s consideration in prioritizing investments in the child care infrastructure with a specific focus on supporting the workforce.

Most child care providers
generate just enough revenue to keep pace with minimum wage.

This limits what they
can offer staff and often discourages qualified individuals from remaining in the field.

Governor Murphy’s proposed budget includes $3.6 million toward wages for child care providers. Provider subsidy payments will also continue to be based on enrollment, not attendance, through the end of 2024. Although these measures are steps in the right direction, additional investments are essential to stabilize the system long-term. We also recognize that sustaining the child care system requires efforts at both the federal and state levels.
Most child care providers generate just enough revenue to keep pace with minimum wage. This limits what they can offer staff and often discourages qualified individuals from remaining in or entering the field. The average child care worker in New Jersey makes about $32,000/yr. which are poverty wages in our state. Inadequate salaries and benefits hinder recruitment and retention efforts. Additionally, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 25 percent of early education professionals say their economic situation has worsened within the last year and 42 percent say they are more burned out than they were this time last year. Worsening economic conditions and increased burnout among early education professionals contribute to high turnover rates and staffing shortages which compromise quality. Ultimately, the consequences of this issue extend to children, families, and our economy.
Child care providers and early education professionals not only nurture and educate infants and toddlers, they also play a crucial role in New Jersey’s economic ecosystem. Without this essential service which extends beyond traditional school hours and days, parents, most often women, are unable to engage in the workforce. Without a functioning workforce, businesses struggle to operate which impacts the overall economy. Therefore, whether or not we agree with the means, the end remains the same – child care is everyone’s business.
We urge you to prioritize investment in the child care infrastructure and support its workforce – to promote quality early care and education, support working families, and ensure a prosperous future for our children.

ACNJ would also like to highlight several critical investments in the proposed budget which we hope are supported in the final SFY25 budget:
Child Tax Credit: ACNJ fully supports the continuation of the state child tax. This is an essential investment in the wellbeing of New Jersey children and families which helps to reduce the burden of poverty. By providing direct financial relief to families, the child tax credit helps offset costs ensuring that children's basic needs are met. The provision of additional income also assists families with the purchase of essential household items and other needs, including child care.
Preschool Expansion: ACNJ is pleased to see continued investment in early education through preschool expansion efforts. A strong early care and education system that includes high-quality preschool provides young children with the educational foundation they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond. The proposed SFY25 budget includes $124 million in preschool aid to expand access to free preschool for additional 3- and 4-year olds and support existing programs.
Food Insecurity and Nutrition Assistance: ACNJ commends the Administration and the Legislature for prioritizing programs that address food insecurity and support nutrition assistance. These supports will impact children and families who do not have access to sufficient food and assist low-income families. The proposed SFY25 budget allocates $30 million to expand access to free school meals, extending coverage to children in families earning under 225 percent of the federal poverty level. Additionally, the proposed budget includes $2.8 million in State funding for the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Program and continued funding support for minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Healthcare and Family Services: ACNJ is pleased to see continued investment in maternal and children’s health. These initiatives ensure children and families have access to healthcare and related supports which promotes overall well-being through consistent preventive care. The Governor’s proposed budget includes funding for the Statewide Universal Newborn Home Nurse Visitation Program including $4 million to expand Family Connects NJ to additional counties. Additionally, we commend investments in expanding healthcare coverage to more children through the Cover All Kids program and increased access to mental health supports through the NJ Statewide Student Support Services Network.