Childcare crisis seen as a barrier

SEATTLE – As covid-19 puts new pressure on parents, the pandemic highlights what many experts have long warned, even in more stable times: the lack of reliable child care limits and affordable prices that people can accept, makes it more difficult to climb the corporate ladder, and ultimately limits the ability of the economy as a whole to grow.

“Early learning is no longer seen as a women’s or children’s problem. It is really an economic problem. It is about participation in the labor market,” said Mario Cardona, head of policy at Child Care Aware of America. “These are employers who don’t have to worry about whether they will be able to count on their employees.”

Child Care Aware estimates that 9% of licensed child care programs, known for low wages for workers and high costs for consumers, have closed permanently since the start of the pandemic, based on its tally of nearly 16,000 closed centers and home daycares in 37 between December 2019 and March 2021.

Now, every teacher resignation, exposure to the coronavirus and daycare closures reveals an industry on the brink of collapse, with far-reaching implications for the entire workforce in the economy.

The national crisis has forced many people – mostly women – to quit their jobs, turning the crisis in child care services into a problem not only for parents of young children, but also for all those who depend on them. . This has contributed to a labor shortage, which in turn has hurt businesses and made it more difficult for customers to access goods and services.

“The decisions we make about the availability of child care today will shape the US macroeconomics for decades to come by influencing who returns to work, what types of jobs parents hold and the career paths they take.” can follow, ”said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan.

President Joe Biden has pledged an unprecedented increase in federal spending in hopes of fixing the child care market. At a recent town hall in Baltimore, he assured parents that they “would not have to pay more than 7% of their income for childcare.” Federal money would go directly to health centers to cover costs above the 7% cap. This means that the median American family earning $ 86,372 would pay $ 6,046 per year for child care.

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Biden’s plan also includes a universal preschool, which could further reduce child care spending for families. The expanded monthly child tax credit payments approved in Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program would be extended by one year. The president is also proposing to increase the amount of a tax credit for childcare expenses, which could help improve access for families.

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to assess the costs, as the measures are still being negotiated ahead of Biden’s departure today for the G-20 conference in Rome. But Donald Schneider, former chief economist of the House Ways and Means Committee who now works for consulting firm Cornerstone Macro, estimates that child care and preschool support would cost $ 465 billion over 10 years.

The cost of one year of the expanded child tax credit would be around $ 120 billion. The credit would cost an additional $ 940 billion if renewed for nine years.

It remains to be seen what survives in negotiations in Congress for Biden’s extensive family services program, but the pandemic is proving to be a decisive catalyst for the future of the child care industry.

At Forever Young Daycare in the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace, Amy McCoy quickly burns out.

She has spent half the year trying to hire a new home childcare assistant, but until then the former public school teacher is working 50 hours a week to look after her. – even children, and more to do the cooking, cleaning and administrative work necessary to run a business.

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“When is my daycare more important than my own family? McCoy asked.

One of McCoy’s assistants, who worked there for five years, quit his $ 19 an hour job in April for a nanny job at $ 35 an hour. McCoy posted the entry-level assistant job on Indeed and Facebook, offering $ 16 an hour, nearly 20% more than the state’s minimum wage. She received few responses and all of them refused her salary, making hiring impossible without an increase in tuition fees.

“No one wants to work for what I can afford right now,” McCoy said. “I absolutely believe these are $ 20 an hour employees, but I hate it, most likely I will have to raise the tuition.”

The US Treasury Department noted in a September report that day care workers earn an average of $ 24,230. More than 15% of workers in industry live below the poverty line in 41 states, and half of them need government assistance.

The sector experiences high turnover rates, with 26 to 40% of them leaving their jobs each year. There is not a lot of room to be given among daycares which tend to operate with profits of 1% or less.

In nearby Edmonds, Briana McFadden closed her business, Cocoon Child Care Center, last month due to the stress of the pandemic, although she believes it would have remained open if there had been grants. governments to stabilize the industry.

In 12 years in business, McFadden said that she had never raised tuition fees and was the rare daycare center in the affluent north suburb of Seattle to accept low-income families with a grant from l ‘State. Before the pandemic, Cocoon employed seven people to care for 37 children. Now McFadden plans to open a convenience store.

“It really wasn’t worth continuing,” said McFadden, his voice shaking with emotion. “Daycare is a tough business.”

Tatum Russell’s livelihood depended as much on McFadden’s daycare as on the restaurant that employs him to bread seafood by hand.

During a covid-19 daycare closure in August, the single mom was only able to get help from parents every now and then. Russell eventually had to miss four days of work.

“It’s been a nightmare, and it’s not over,” she said.


In news Wednesday from the fight against covid-19, US pharmaceutical giant Merck agreed to share the license of its investigational covid-19 drug, molnupiravir, with a non-profit organization so that it can be Manufactured on a large scale around the world under a deal that would expand access to treatment in more than 100 countries.

The move could make the treatment, an easy-to-take pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death in some cases, accessible to millions of people in most low- and middle-income countries – if regulators allow its use.

Merck announced in October that a global clinical trial showed the antiviral pill halved hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk coronavirus patients diagnosed with mild to moderate illness.

The company has agreed to share its license with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool, which in turn can authorize it to manufacturers.

The deal is designed to expand the drug’s availability, expand its manufacturing base, and potentially lower the price.

The US government pays about $ 700 per cycle of molnupiravir treatment, The New York Times reported. But, according to Brook Baker, a law professor at Northeastern University who has been monitoring drug negotiations, the price of a treatment could fall below $ 10 as competition increases between manufacturers and the scale production increases.

Molnupiravir has not yet received approval from US or European regulators. Merck applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization this month, and the European Medicines Agency recently began an ongoing review of the drug.

Information for this story was provided by Sally Ho and Josh Boak of The Associated Press; and by Adam Taylor and Claire Parker of the Washington Post.

Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, Calif., Waves his vaccination card on Wednesday after receiving a Pfizer covid-19 recall from Asian Health Services in Oakland. (AP / Jeff Chiu)

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