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Childcare is essential for parents—but the industry is in danger

There are 20 million kids under age 5 in this country, the majority of which normally receive some amount of paid care. We can't let this industry collapse.

childcare relief coronavirus pandemic

Parents—especially moms—are stressed about child care. Worried about how much longer they will have to juggle steak knives in navigating the compression of work and family. Worried about whether their kid's daycare will still even exist when it's time to go back. Worried about what happens if school doesn't open in the fall but their workplaces do.

Now there's something parents can do about it.

A coalition of 17 major childcare organizations have come together to launch ChildCareRelief.org, an effort with the singular purpose of ensuring the childcare industry gets dedicated funding when Congress comes back to negotiate the next round of federal aid in response to the pandemic. Childcare is the actual backbone of the American economy. Childcare advocates are asking for at least $50 billion.

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This level of funding would be a stark contrast from the CARES Act, in which childcare got only $3.5 billion (compare this to the airline industry, which got $25 billion), while many care providers were boxed out of receiving small business loans.

And it's not going to happen without parents blowing up their Representatives' and Senators' phone lines.

This isn't just about care for infants and toddlers. A large number of childcare providers serve school-aged children since the school day is laughably misaligned with the work day. For instance, a full third of children who benefit from childcare subsidy dollars—nearly 450,000 kids—are ages 6 to 12. With child cares opening on a very different timeline than schools, and with many summer camps closed, childcare providers may become critically important sources of care and education for elementary schoolers. In other words, you don't have to have a kid in diapers for your life to be impacted by the disintegration of America's childcare system.

It's difficult to overstate the size of the parent constituency. There are 20 million kids under age five in this country, the majority of which normally receive some amount of paid care. Another 27 million children are between ages 5 and 11, many of whom rely on child care before and after school. Count up the parents and grandparents of those 47 million kids (to say nothing of the aunts and uncles and godparents and…), and you've got a force to be reckoned with.

Parents are like the water built up behind a dam, a lake of potential energy waiting to be unleashed with enough power to literally reshape entire landscapes. And it's time to break-dam-in-case-of-emergency. It's mama bear time. It's papa bear time. It's time to channel all that pent-up stress.

Someone is messing with your kids. Here's how you stop it:

Elected officials are creatures of incentive, and if parents don't get up in arms when their daycares get scraps, there isn't much of an incentive to change course.

Text CARE to 747-464, or call 1-888-523-8974, and get connected to your Congresspeople. Tell them you expect and demand that childcare receives at least $50 billion in dedicated funding (and ideally the $100 billion that would both rescue the industry and start building a better one—the system certainly wasn't working before coronavirus!). Tell them you will be watching, and your vote in November will hinge on them getting this done.

Then sic grandma and grandpa on them. This is also a time to rally the troops through all those parent Facebook groups and text chains. Parent social networks are strong, and they offer a real chance to add on action steps to the (invaluable!) sharing of tips and clothes and vents. The beauty of this particular topic is that it veers away from the big-P Political: supporting childcare is among the most bipartisan and uncontentious of questions.

To say parents are busy right now is like saying that it's inconvenient to have all the playgrounds closed: an almost insulting understatement. As the father of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, I am acutely aware of the demands on parental time. Taking the time to save childcare, however, is how we carve a path ahead to some semblance of balance, even if the scales look rather different for a while. Let Congress hear the parents of America roar.

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