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Report: Child Care Key for Equitable Economic Recovery

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Tuesday, December 8, 2020   

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, women in Nebraska and across the U.S. have left the workforce in unprecedented numbers. And a new report suggests a full economic recovery will not be possible unless steps are taken to help women get back on the job.

Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said the lack of access to child care has forced women to choose between their families' well-being and a paycheck. She said for a recovery that leaves no one behind, people who have been disproportionately affected need to be front and center.

"Women of color, low-wage workers, women in rural areas are most impacted by this COVID-fueled economic downturn," Mason said. "These are women who worked in service occupations, were earning lower wages, had fewer benefits and are really struggling to get by."

Researchers found a direct correlation between school and day-care closures and reduced working hours for women. In September, the start of the school year, more than 865,000 women exited the workforce, compared with more than 200,000 men.

Mason noted the U.S. is alone in the developed world in not providing publicly subsidized child care, and for decades, lawmakers have treated child care as a private responsibility.

The report said an equitable economic recovery will require financial support for workers who lost jobs through no fault of their own, boosting wages and ensuring paid sick and family medical leave for all workers. But Mason said the broader economy will remain sluggish until mothers -- who often are the primary caregivers in their families -- have access to affordable, high-quality child care.

"What we know is that when families have child care, women feel comfortable being in the workforce, they're able to sustain employment, families do better, children thrive when they are at high-quality child-care centers," she said.

The report also recommends ramping up infrastructure projects, including building out true broadband internet in states including Nebraska, so those living in rural communities can complete online job applications, participate in virtual classrooms and access telemedicine. Of the 15 million Americans without broadband access, 14.5 million live in rural counties.


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