COVID-19

Economies are reopening, but the child care question persists

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
HTML EMBED:
COPY
A mother helps her daughters with schoolwork in March. As the economy opens back up, school programs remain shut down. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
COVID-19

Economies are reopening, but the child care question persists

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 8, 2020
A mother helps her daughters with schoolwork in March. As the economy opens back up, school programs remain shut down. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Construction, manufacturing and some retail operations have been cleared to resume Monday in New York City, the hardest-hit and longest shut-down place in America. While many other areas of the country have been open for a month or more, the issue of what to do with children as we head back to work is still kind of a big question mark.

School programs remain shut, as do camps in many places, and while day care providers in most states are allowed to open up again, that’s easier said than done.

Tom Wood runs his own production company in Los Angeles — or at least he did before the pandemic shut day care and made him a full-time caregiver to his twin 2-year-olds.

He needs to send the kids back to day care to resume his work, and he’s paid to save their spots, but he’s worried.

“Every health expert is saying, sure, everything can reopen as long as you’re 6 feet away, and you wear a mask and don’t go indoors,” he said. “Day care is the opposite of that.”

Personal decisions like his could decide the health of an industry already hurting before the pandemic and now at a breaking point.

Paula Drew, who works with day care programs for the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, said providers — who operate on razor thin margins in the best of times — can’t afford to stay closed. But reopening comes with new liability, extra costs and seemingly impossible safety standards.

“In Milwaukee, you can only have 25% of your capacity,” Drew said. “There’s no way that they can afford to operate.”

She anticipates up to half the programs she works with could close down in coming months.

A survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found most child care providers were losing income and couldn’t survive a closure of a month or less.

“Some facilities that have shuttered their doors are not going to open again,” said Caitlyn Collins, a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.

The risk is particularly acute, she said, among Black-owned child care providers and those who serve low-income families, which could exacerbate gender and racial inequality.

Collins noted the U.S. is the only wealthy Western country without some kind of national child care program and that “the work of caring for other people in the United States is historically devalued.”

But she said the pandemic could be a turning point. Congress is considering several proposals to inject billions of dollars into the industry as the link between child care and economic growth becomes harder to ignore. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.