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Paul Kieltyka, CEO of the Summit Area YMCA and president of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance

Many children’s summer camps are only two months away from opening, but camp directors are still waiting for clarity from the state on operating restrictions and how that will affect families who want to get their kids outdoors after a year of COVID-19 lockdowns and gathering limits.

That was the message from Paul Kieltyka, CEO of the Summit Area YMCA and president of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, at a recent virtual meeting of the New Jersey Business Coalition hosted by NJBIA and attended by about 100 people, including legislators.

Kieltyka said camp operators like YMCAs are in “infuriating” circumstances because camp season is about to start and there is a “lack of guidance and understanding about what we are going to do with the restrictions and capacity limits that are in place.”

Most of the restrictions that camps face this summer are still the same as what they had to operate under in the summer of 2020 when the pandemic was at its worst, he said

Even though the state has eased some restrictions on other businesses now that COVID-19 cases are declining and the vaccine supply is expanding, the rules that summer camps must operate under in 2021 haven’t been changed, he said. Busing restrictions remain financially unsustainable, as do the rules that prevent campers from intermingling, which in turn impacts staffing ratios, he said.

“As we see a gradual easing of some capacities and restrictions across all facets of the state, we have not seen any changes with child summer camps,” Kieltyka said.

“We are seeing parents and families across this state that want to get their children out of the house and into our summer camps,” Kieltyka said. “The bad news is that we are at 50% of what we are normally able to provide for our children, so we are now up against wait-lists and we’re turning away families.  And obviously the domino effect of that is that parents can’t get back to work. Parents can’t do what they need to do this summer because their children have nowhere to go.”