Child care difficulties may slow recovery after coronavirus by keeping parents at home

Most states are allowing some or all businesses to reopen over the next month with varying levels of restrictions, but will parents being called to return to their jobs have the childcare they need to do so?

Closures of day cares and summer camps could hold back the economic recovery if they are unable to reopen after financial setbacks from coronavirus shutdowns or if the number of youngsters they can take in is limited, a nonprofit child care advocacy organization said.

All 50 states have announced plans to reopen to some degree, hoping that most or all of the more than 30 million jobs that have been lost since March will begin to come back over the summer.

But parents who will be expected to return to work are confronting a new reality: child care centers that remain closed and summer camps canceled, leaving them without the care they need for their kids while they work.

Between a rock and a hard place

“Without child care, there’s no recovery,” Child Care Aware of America Lynette Fraga Executive Director said to The Hill.

Sade Moonsammy from Family Values @ Work pointed out that most day cares do not have large profit margins and can’t survive months of being shut down with no income. “A lot of them dove into their savings and don’t have enough money to survive,” she said.

The Center for American Progress estimated that 4.5 million day care slots will be lost nationally because of coronavirus. The organization also pointed out that only 11% of centers said they could re-open after a lengthy shutdown.

These realities could drive parents to seek extended work from home arrangements or look for family members or friends that could provide the care they need to work outside the home. Some may just decide not to return to work until quality child care becomes available.

New realities

In addition to availability, it is extremely difficult to come up with safe ways to care for children in group settings in the middle of a pandemic. Most day care centers still operating have limited their openings to essential workers or are only operating at partial capacity.

Additional cleaning costs have also added to the overhead of these facilities even as their income has been cut to 25 or 50% of pre-coronavirus levels.

Centers may also be subject to temporary closure if a staff member or child tests positive for the coronavirus, further disrupting their operation.

The issue of child care shows that re-opening a state or even a municipality may not be as easy as some officials want to make it seem: there are many obstacles to the new normal, and child care availability will surely be one of them.

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