COVID-19

Economies are reopening, but the child care question persists

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 8, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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:
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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 do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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