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Coronavirus: Why child care bills in Congress could be key to recovery | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


SALT LAKE CITY — When COVID-19 sent Lisa Jones home to telework, she envied her childless co-workers who responded to emails within minutes.

Jones was admittedly slower, as her new office space suddenly included a teething baby, a kindergartener who’d “lost his village” of school support, a clingy toddler trying to potty train and a middle child who ended up playing in a sandbox all day.

“It just wasn’t the same ballgame for me,” says Jones, 33, a single mom of four kids under 6 years old.

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools, shuttered child care centers and forced millions of parents to juggle full-time work and full-time parenting, not to mention full-time teaching for those with school-aged kids.

Roughly two-fifths of American families — 33.4 million — include children under 18 years old, and more than 15 million kids under six have all available parents working.

To say parents are exhausted is putting it mildly.

A new bipartisan poll of 1,216 voters nationwide found 8 in 10 voters (9 in 10 voting parents) want Congress to pass a childcare stabilization fund as part of their next COVID-19 relief bill, even if it costs upwards of $50 billion, according to the poll commissioned by the First Five Years Fund and Center for American Progress and conducted in early July.

A major step came Wednesday night, as the House passed two major child care bills, including the “Child Care is Essential Act” — which would create the stabilization fund.

As the country lurches toward reopening, experts and parents know that economic recovery will happen only as fast as we’re willing to seriously talk about who’s watching the kids.

“Anybody with a child in this crisis knows this is really a No. 1 issue,” says Matthias Doepke, a professor of economics at Northwestern University and co-author of a recent related pre-print paper. “Without solving child care, you cannot go anywhere near to having a normal economy.”

Lifelines, not luxuries

Within the next three months, nearly half of parents with at least one child under 6 will need to change child care arrangements, and 22% of parents are unsure about or unlikely to return to their pre-COVID-19 work situation, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation based on a June survey of 562 parents from 42 states and more than 20 industries.

Even teleworking, which has been hailed as a game-changer for working moms, was only available to 24% of the low-income parents and 46% of the middle-income parents surveyed, making it an unrealistic long-term solution for many families.

While ensuring access to affordable, high-quality, out-of-home care is crucial, it’s not the only child care solution needed.

Experts increasingly note that companies — and the country as a whole — must support parents with polices that allow them to care for their children in ways that work for each individual family.

That should include paid sick and family leave (when someone has a baby or needs to care for aging parents), flexible schedules and an emergency back-up staffing infrastructure, says Ellen Ernst Kossek, a professor of management at Purdue University Krannert School of Management, who explores these concepts in a new paper about suggested updates to U.S. work-life employment policies.



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