Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) wants consideration of her legislation to extend early intervention services to children up to the age of six to help deal with the long-term effects of the state’s COVID-19 closures and lockdowns.
Munoz’s bill would extend the New Jersey Early Intervention System to children until they begin kindergarten.
“When schools were shut down and medical providers moved their therapy sessions online, our children with disabilities and delays suffered greatly, especially those without the means to pay for private tutors and specialists,” Munoz said. “Children should be able to stay with a state-contracted therapist if they have been successfully progressing instead of having to wait for preschool services to start.”
According to Munoz, children born during the pandemic have “missed out on important social and emotional learning and interactions that would have supported proper language development.”
“The consequences of school closures and social distancing requirements have most negatively impacted our youngest learners who are now struggling to catch up developmentally,” she said. “We have an obligation to the children and families of New Jersey to provide the intervention services and in-person therapies they need without disruption.”
The GOP lawmaker, a registered nurse, says that monthly referrals to the state program experienced a 20% increase when babies born during the pandemic hit 18 months, and that most appointments were available only through telehealth.
“Families shouldn’t have to shell out large sums of money to address delays that are not their fault,” Munoz stated. “This bill will allow for consistent, timely and reliable services.”