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Instead of providing $300 bonuses on top of regular unemployment benefits to people who aren’t working, the federal government should give a subsidy to those who return to work, says one Runnemede childcare operator.

“In my almost 20 years of experience, I have never had such a hard time hiring and retaining staff,” Kiddie Academy owner Karyn Serrano-Jarzyk said during a recent New Jersey Business Coalition online Town Hall on the hiring crisis.

“There has been plenty of concern about unemployment insurance and additional federal payouts to people who are not working,” Serrano-Jarzyk said. “I will not attempt to weigh in on why people are not choosing to work, yet I must note that there is robust opportunity within our industry.”

Serrano-Jarzyk said that if the federal government’s goal is to support workers, it should do so in a “results-based manner.” Right now, the federal government is essentially paying workers bonuses to remain unemployed. Providing a subsidy to people who return to work, and a bonus if they remain employed, would be far more productive, she said.

“The government will be spending the same amount of money as it is now in aid, but it will be rewarding individuals who are working as opposed to those who choose not to,” Serrano-Jarzyk said.

The childcare industry’s current challenges are not limited to the hiring crisis, Serrano-Jarzyk said. Childcare facilities are struggling to earn a profit due to pandemic-related licensing restrictions that limit their capacity, she said, noting that approximately 1,300 New Jersey childcare centers have closed.

“We are seeing operational costs increase by as much as 20%, as there has been insufficient use of staff and square footage month after month,” Serrano-Jarzyk said. “We cannot sustain this business model.

“Lifting capacity and other restrictions will allow the childcare industry to open classrooms to many more mothers trying to return to work. But we also feel that employees should be reworked for working rather than not working,” she said.

More than 150 people, including more than 20 state and federal legislators or their representatives, attended the New Jersey Business Coalition’s virtual Town Hall on May 11.