METUCHEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Working parents have been scrambling to find child care for their kids this fall and figure out how to pay for it.

“If we had not had access to child care, our family would have been faced with some tough choices,” said Layli Khelafa, a working mom, told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

Khelafa is one of thousands of New Jersey’s working parents facing a dilemma this fall: stay at home with their kids, or go back to work.

To help ease the burden, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a $250 million COVID child care initiative Friday.

It will essentially do four things:

  1. Provide child care state subsidies for kids 5 to 13 years old through the end of the school year
  2. Create a $150 million assistance program for families who aren’t eligible for the subsidy but have an annual income below $75,000
  3. Boost payments to child care centers – up to $75 per child per month
  4. Offer grants to child care centers to help them cover COVID-related costs, like cleaning and PPE

Watch Gov. Murphy’s Announcement

Murphy said the bottom line is that child care is key to the economy reopening.

“As many families have discovered these past few months, child care has become a necessary part of our state’s economic infrastructure,” said Murphy.

“Since March – and this is a staggering number – nearly half of New Jersey’s 4,000 licensed child care centers have remained closed. Nearly 4,000,” he said. “Employing nearly 5% of the female workforce in this state, and allowing tens of thousands of parents the ability to go to work.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The majority of New Jersey’s school districts opted to start the year remotely, placing the burden on parents.

“No matter how superhuman parents are, it’s just incredibly challenging, if not impossible, to work from home and teach your kids during the day,” said Dept. of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson.

Johnson’s department will oversee the funding, which is separated into the four categories.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“The importance of quality, reliable child care cannot be overstated for our family,” said one working parent. “Having young children and a child with special needs, the availability of quality child care is what enables us to work.”

State officials said they’ve seen an influx of women leaving the workforce to look after their children at home. So they hope this funding provides another option.

“Either our main breadwinner would have had to stay home on unemployment to take care of our children, or I would have had to give up my job serving my community,” said Khelafa.

Khelafa and other parents who qualify can apply for the subsidies starting next week.

LINK: CLICK HERE for more information about the subsidies and who qualifies.

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