The coronavirus has laid bare what was painfully clear to many families already: The caregiving system in the United States is broken, and it is women who are paying the price. – Melinda Gates
In yesterday’s Washington Post op-ed, Melinda Gates offered a clear call to action: provide federal funding to rebuild child care infrastructure and expand work supports including paid leave and Medicare to promote economic security for women and working families. These critical policies would have facilitated women’s entry into and growth in the labor force prior to the pandemic, but now, following an economic “she-cession” that has led to disproportionate job losses by women, they are essential to economic recovery. It will not be possible to get woman and caregivers back to work until child care is made affordable and accessible.
We recently highlighted the experiences of women who lacked access to child care during the pandemic. Their testimony has been a stark reminder of what’s at stake if sufficient economic relief that prioritizes child care is not provided by the new administration. “I just feel like I’m falling through the cracks,” said one woman on her inability to support her family after her small business shut down during the pandemic. “I experienced unpredictability because I was working full-time and no longer had child care,” said another on her difficult decision to quit her job during the pandemic to support her family.
That’s why our economic recovery report, Build(ing) the Future: Bold Policies for a Gender-Equitable Recovery, made the bold call for up to $100 billion in federal funds to support and strengthen the care infrastructure, provide support for education and training for workers, provide funds to states to maintain employment for public sector workers, and expand unemployment insurance and paid sick leave for workers. During this time of unprecedented challenges, radical solutions are needed to address the systemic inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Gates notes that Biden has already expressed a commitment to providing child care funding and that, as a former single father and caretaker for aging parents, he has personally experienced caretakers’ struggle to balance work and family commitments. The Biden-Harris administration has the power to enact policies that would jump start the economy and pull millions of families out of poverty. We need to continue voicing the need for child care funding until it becomes a reality.