If you make less than $150K, you could be eligible for childcare money under expanded N.J. program

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New Jersey is raising the income limits so more families are eligible for a new state program designed to dramatically cut childcare costs for school-age kids who are remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual income cap for the New Jersey School-Age Tuition Assistance Program has increased from $75,000 to $150,000, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his coronavirus press briefing Monday. The state program provides up to $634 a month to cover childcare costs for students between ages 5 and 13 attending schools that are remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This will allow more families to receive the support they need to afford childcare,” Murphy said.

The money from the $150 million program can be used to pay for daycare centers, YMCAs, camps or other licensed childcare providers offering programs to looks after students who can’t go to class because their schools are remote learning every day or several days a week.

The state began taking applications for the program last month. Those who were rejected because their family income was more than $75,000 should reapply under the new $150,000 income limit, state officials said.

Under the program:

— Families can apply online at ChildCareNJ.gov. Applicants will be asked to provide a copy of their school’s remote learning schedule and proof of their gross household income, such as pay stubs and tax forms.

— The money is available for students between ages 5 and 13 whose schools are remote learning either every day, part time or a few days a week.

— Children in licensed childcare centers could be eligible for up to $634 a month for full-time care or $317 a month for part-time care. Children being looked after by a registered family care provider could be eligible for up to $527 a month for full-time care or $263 a month for part-time care.

— The money is only available for students being cared for by a licensed child care center or registered family child care provider, not relatives or friends. The money will be paid directly to the child care provider for services between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30.

— There is no guarantee the state will cover the entire childcare bill. “If the amount that we pay is less than the child care provider’s rate, the provider may require you to pay the difference,” the application says.

The program will be available through the end of December or until the $150 million in funding runs out, state officials said.

Statewide, nearly 700 New Jersey school districts started the school year with students spending either every day or part of the week learning at home, state education officials said. It is unclear how many of those students are home with their parents, being looked after by relatives or spending their days with a paid childcare provider while their parents work.

Some childcare centers, YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers and other providers have expanded their offerings to care for students who are remote learning during the school day. Parents can check with their county’s child care resource and referral agencies for help finding childcare, state officials said.

The state childcare tuition-assistance program is part of a $250 million plan Murphy announced last month to increase access to childcare during the pandemic so more parents can return to work.

The plan also includes grant programs for New Jersey child care providers to help keep them open and pay for increased costs and personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

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Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com.

— to www.nj.com

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