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Without childcare, going back to work after the coronavirus lockdown is not an option for many families.
But many city and state leaders are overlooking this childcare dilemma as they push to reopen businesses, even while schools remain closed amid the pandemic.
That’s why Melinda Lopez is speaking up.
Rhode Island, where Lopez lives, began reopening businesses on May 9. But childcare sites have to remain closed through May 30.
Beyond this three-week-lag, when childcare centers do reopen, they will take fewer kids. Many moms will still be left without a spot for their child.
“I’m concerned about what our women in our communities are going to do,” said Lopez, an Education Strategies Specialist with Highlander Institute, Early Childhood Adjunct Instructor at Rhode Island College, and Co-Director of the RI Latina Leadership Institute, in a YouTube video.
American Childcare Is a ‘Failed Market’
Nearly one-third of U.S workers live in a household with a child under age 14. This means about 50 million workers have to rely on childcare, according to economists at the University of Chicago.
Of these workers, Lopez is particularly concerned about the working women who haven’t been able to work from home. Now they are going to be required to go back to work after lockdown.
“The system right now, this transition right now, doesn’t really make sense for them,” Lopez said.
Many say American childcare has never made sense.
Half of Americans live in childcare deserts, and the problem is worse among Latinos.
We really have a three week or so lag where moms are going to be expected to go back to work, but they don't have childcare in place for their children, and with the new regulations, childcare centers are going to have to take less children in a room which may mean less spots which may mean many moms might not have spots.Melinda Lopez
Co Director Rhode Island Latina Leadership Institute
“The American childcare system was already a failed market, and now COVID-19 is pushing it toward collapse,” wrote Liuba Grechen Shirley in Time.
“The economics are fragile in good times,” Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, told USA Today. “When a crisis like this hits, it is devastating to the childcare field.”
More Federal Aid Is Needed for the Childcare Industry
Federal aid hasn’t come close to the $50 billion requested by the childcare industry.
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act only provides $3.5 billion to assist child care centers nationwide and $750 million to the National Head Start Program.
Beyond school closures, families are worried about the summer.
Without summer school, summer camps, and sports camps, even more families will need childcare.
“Going back to in-person work, without access to child care, will force families to make terrible decisions, at a time when nearly everybody feels the threat of layoffs and unemployment breathing down their necks,” wrote Ellie Mystal in The Nation.
What Can You Do?
Find out if your state is prioritizing childcare by searching your governor’s reopening plans, to include guidelines for and dates when childcare centers can reopen to non-essential workers as well as relief funding for childcare centers.
If not, follow the steps of Lopez.
Create your own video explaining your concerns. Share it with your local and state leaders.
Watch Lopez here: https://youtu.be/Ctf-VpzWaP8
“I’m really torn as to where this is all headed,” Lopez said. “It’s really putting women in a position that they will lose their jobs if they don’t [find childcare and] return to work.”