Without child care, the economy won’t restart

Child care has traditionally been a “soft issue,” a “woman’s issue” and an issue ignored whenever possible by conservatives, some of whom are queasy about working mothers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made childcare a key issue, during the Democratic presidential primary, although her plan on the topic got less attention than those for healthcare, climate change and college debt.

But the coronavirus epidemic has brought child care front and center, raising a challenge to those conservatives insisting we quickly reopen the economy.Without schools and child care, parents cannot leave their kids alone to go back to work. Instead of blocking traffic and screaming at police officers, conservatives agitating for a swift return to business as usual should be demanding child-care solutions.

“State child care advocates say New Hampshire’s essential industries will not be able to operate at full capacity without first expanding access to and affordability of child care,” New Hampshire public radio recently reported. “It’s really critical that as we look at industries to re-open that we understand what their child care needs are,” explained Chris Tappan, New Hampshire’s associate commissioner of health and human services. If industries are going to open up, states will need to reboot or expand their child-care centers accordingly.

States themselves are financially strapped, and funding for child care has barely been addressed. But there are other potential funding sources.

Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), which advocates on childhood issues, has been urgently calling attention to the child-care crisis. Its recent national poll showed overwhelming, bipartisan consensus on enhancing and funding child care at the federal level.

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