Millions of Americans rely on child care just to be able to work each day.
When parents can’t go to work because it is too costly or too difficult to find care for their young children, our economy suffers. The COVID-19 pandemic stretched an already-strained child care system so thin that it put as many as 4.5 million child care slots at risk. While Congress worked with both the Trump and Biden administrations to make an essential down payment on stabilizing the industry, the devastating effects of the child care crisis still linger and the root causes of the industry’s near collapse persist.
Even before the pandemic, child care was inaccessible and unaffordable to many American families. Half of Americans live in areas where the supply of licensed child care is scarce, and as many as 2.7 million children under age six were in need of child care but could not get a spot. The average cost of child care was $10,000-15,000 per year, forcing many families to choose between paying other essential bills and finding care for their young children.
During the pandemic, the American economy took a direct hit due to limits of the child care system. As providers were forced to cut capacity or close their doors, women left the workforce in swarms, bringing women’s workforce participation rate down to a historic low. Even parents who remained in the labor force had to reduce working hours, pass on promotions, or switch their job status. State economies lost billions of dollars due to child care breakdowns; as did businesses and individual households.
The pandemic also shed light on the financial hardships facing the child care industry. Many providers went out of business months into government-mandated shutdowns; others were forced to shut their doors due to increased operating costs and reduced enrollment revenue. The child care workforce, 40% of which are minorities and almost entirely female, lost more than 150,000 jobs by the end of 2020.
Child care will be the backbone of America’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the differentiator that can create a competitive workforce for future growth. Let’s make child care work so that Americans can get back to work.