NEWARK – The Clinton Hill Early Learning Center occupies an impressive building on Demarest Street and serves 198 children up to the age of five.
The center, which has been around since 1992, describes itself thusly:
“Our commitment to quality extends to our families as well. We provide multiple pathways for families to be engaged, empowered, and included in our programs.”
After touring the center Friday morning, Rep. Mikie Sherrill observed:
“A place like this has to be replicated.”
The congresswoman from nearby CD-11 joined two local state reps – Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin – to tour the center and to highlight the importance of child care.
This, in fact, has been a major issue for Sherrill, a mother of four.
Of late, there has been bad news and good news about childcare.
The pandemic-era American Rescue Act expanded child tax credits up to $3,000 per child over the age of six for a two-parent family earning a maximum of $150,000 a year. Most eligible families received the credit in monthly installments of $250.
Democrats say the program paid immediate dividends.
Sherrill pointed to statistics saying that the credit helped slash child poverty in the nation to a low of 5.2 percent – lifting as many as 3 million children out of poverty in a single month.
It was Pintor Marin who noted that Congress, as well as business leaders, finally realized the importance of providing working women with financial help to pay for child care or to meet other needs. She said it was “unfortunate” that it took a pandemic for this realization to set in.
Well, sort of. The added benefit was only for 2021.
Now, the pandemic is over.
Combine that with the polarization of an almost evenly-divided Congress and the tax credit was not extended for 2022 and beyond. Child poverty for 2022 increased to 12.4 percent as a result.
But just last month, Congress passed what is called – quite grandly – the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, which will last for three years.
This legislation does not bring back the monthly payments under the old plan.
But Sherrill stressed that it does do something – aid low-income families with more than one child. It does this partly by indexing benefits to inflation. It would also raise the maximum credit per child from $1,800 in 2023 to $2,000 in 2025.
That’s a step forward, but childcare as an issue going forward is not going away.
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