Pandemic Pushing Childcare Collapse

Pandemic Pushing Childcare Collapse

The current pandemic has pushed the US childcare system to near-collapse with temporary closures, enrollment declines, and additional precautions for providers in light of the public health crisis. For over 30 years, the Child Care and Development Block Grant has been the primary policy decision to rectify this problem. But major underfunding has forced states to restrict eligibility for childcare assistance, and often, single mothers are caught by the “cliff effect” of losing this benefit if their pay increases. 

According to the a recent op-ed, employers lose about $13 billion in potential earnings, productivity, and revenue because of inadequate childcare resources, and the pandemic has forced millions of women out of their jobs, leaving them without many options. Three of 4 private childcare providers closed during the pandemic – an industry where 92% of businesses are women-owned. Of parents who reported needing to not work due to lack of childcare, 76% were women compared to 24% who were men. And 80% of families cannot afford the full cost of infant and toddler care – a disparity even higher for families of color (94%). (To read a report on how women in the labor force are key to economic recovery, click here.)

Our country currently spends less than .5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on early childcare and education, and very few eligible children can access these services. An estimated 1 in 9 eligible kids receive early childhood funding (for children who have not reached kindergarten), and since these funds also funds before- and after-school programs, they do not go far enough. In Iowa, only 12.4% of eligible children actually received childcare assistance. 

Women’s funds around the globe continue to work to raise awareness on this issue, and our sister fund in Iowa City - the Iowa Women’s Foundation – has taken on childcare solutions as its primary issue, not only as an essential work support, but as a core economic issue for both workers and employers. We believe that changing policy is the best solution to improving these circumstances.

Some of the policy solutions to focus our attention are:

  • Funding to expand childcare capacity
  • Expansion of eligibility for childcare assistance
  • More accessibility for paid leave
  • Modified rules for licensing of childcare centers to assist with expanding capacity

These solutions help working women and their families in the following ways:

  • providing enriching and safe environments for children
  • strengthening women’s and families’ economic security
  • respecting the dignity of childcare workers and educators

Whatever your political persuasion, the Build Back Better Act currently in Congress contains a recommendation to expand childcare assistance significantly (over the coming 4 years). And by scaling up the supply of childcare providers, recruiting new providers, increasing wages for teachers and opening additional classrooms and businesses (included in the current draft), childcare assistance would be available for 16 times as many children than are currently eligible, and state childcare agencies could reach over 25 times as many children as are currently reached. 

This is just one example of ways we can educate the public and stakeholders on how to improve the status of girls and women and their families. Although we do not lobby specifically for this or any bill, Chrysalis does keep ourselves informed of the implications of policy decisions that effect not only girls and women, but our larger society. Your help in advancing this knowledge is an excellent way to serve as a “Chrysalis ambassador,” and we look forward to continuing to build opportunities for more awareness in our new strategic plan.