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As states around the country attempt to restart their economies, lack of child care will continue to keep some people -- mostly women -- from getting back to work.

The country was already facing a day care shortage before coronavirus forced 60% of centers to close, according to a survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Only 27% said they could survive a closure of a month.

Even with state and local restrictions on businesses easing, lack of demand due to millions of parents working from home and millions more out of work means many will never reopen.

Before coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns, 2 million parents made career sacrifices due to lack of adequate or affordable child care, a 2016 study by the Center for American Progress found. Women disproportionately take the hit. Even in two-parent households in which both parties work full time, mothers perform the majority of child-rearing duties, according to Pew Research.

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During the pandemic this divide has been exacerbated. A survey by the Boston Consulting Group found working mothers are now spending 65 hours per week on child care and household duties, 15 hours more per week than fathers. Almost half of the parents surveyed said their ability to perform at work had decreased because of these additional responsibilities.

Adelina Parker is one of those people. The 24-year-old has cut back her hours as a project manager at a family-run construction company to take care of her 5-month-old son. She's also shelved a side business planning events.

"It's not sustainable to be feeding your baby in one arm and trying to conduct a conference call in the other," she said. Parker's husband works for a heating and air conditioning company that has kept operating through the pandemic, so she had no choice but to step in.

In Utah, where the Parkers live, many child care providers never shut down, but a quarter of licensed centers still remain closed, even as other parts of the state's economy open up. After a seven week maternity leave, Parker had been taking her baby to work, but had hoped to find something more permanent soon. Now those options are limited.

"The pandemic has focused the nation's attention on the fact that access to child care is a really critical part of our economic health," said Ami Gadhia, policy chief for Child Care Aware, an industry advocacy group. She added that without emergency funding many providers will be forced to close permanently, citing a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children that estimates up to 63% of the industry will go out of business without help from Congress.

Kaitlin Robbins, a Denton, Texas-based fitness instructor with a 10-month-old, worries that when she's called back to work she'll have to make a tough choice.

If the studio where she works reopens before her day care, she'll either have to quit working or put her daughter "into a program I'm not super-comfortable with," Robbins said. "And if I don't find child care, I have to figure out if my job will still be there in six months."

A Section on 05/23/2020

Print Headline: Lack of child care is snag for reopenings


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