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High cost of childcare and lack of paid time off is holding back many working parents

Lack of paid time off and access to quality child care has long been a problem for working parents in the United States, advocates argue.

The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, with some parents – mostly women – giving up their jobs to care for their children. A September report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that one in four women were considering leaving the workforce or reducing their career.

“The pandemic has really shown people just how much caregiving is really part of what makes the economy work,” said Lelaine Bigelow, executive director of external affairs for the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The Biden administration recently responded by offering 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, which workers would get within 10 years. They could receive up to $ 4,000 a month, with at least two-thirds of their average weekly salary replaced. The program, which is part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.8 trillion spending and tax credit plan, would be funded through payroll taxes.

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Biden’s plan would also spend $ 225 billion over a decade on child care for children under 5. It ensures that families pay only a portion of their total income for services, with the average family saving $ 14,800 per year on child care.

Some companies already provide some form of assistance to their employees. A quarter of employers offer paid parental leave to at least some employees for the birth or placement of a child, according to a 2019 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

When it comes to child care, only 4% of employers offered subsidized child care or programs, according to the 2019 Society of Human Resource Management Employee Benefits Survey.

An additional 4% provided non-subsidized, company-affiliated centers on site or nearby, and 11% offered a referral service to suppliers.

Yet, it is something that parents desire. According to a recent survey by childcare provider Bright Horizons, 46% of working parents want their employer to provide some form of emergency child care or childcare.

Amanda Fallon, 38, a mother of 4 years and 8 months, is one of those with a day care center located on her employer’s campus in South San Francisco, California. Although tuition fees are not subsidized by the Genentech company, they are reduced based on family income.

This proved to be helpful, especially during the pandemic, as Genentech allowed employees who were using the center to return to campus ahead of schedule, Fallon said. She was able to work and have her two children look after her nearby.

“I was able to meet these challenges much more easily because of the support I received from my employer,” Fallon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

The pandemic has really shown people how much caregiving is really part of what makes the economy work.
Lelaine Bigelow
Director General of External Affairs of the National Partnership for Women and Families

While employers can take the strain off their workers, a national policy is needed for all Americans, advocates say.

Under Biden’s plan, low-income families would see all of their childcare costs covered. Those who earn 1.5 times their median income would not spend more than 7% of their annual salary.

Small businesses also argue that it would help them compete with large businesses for workers.

“We have to be very careful when we look to the private sector to solve a large-scale program like this because it has a direct impact on the economy of small businesses,” said Sarah Cozier, spokesperson for Main Street Alliance.

“In order to be able to support a successful small business owner and his employees, it is important that the government supports these [child-care] subsidies so that we are on a level playing field. “

For Kate Davenport, co-chair of Minneapolis-based Eureka Recycling, a national paid vacation policy would finally allow her to offer it to her 120 employees. Right now, it’s financially out of reach.

“As a small business, we find it hard to compete. We don’t have the same profit margins as some of the larger companies,” said Davenport, which already pays employees a living wage, offers paid time off and covers the costs. health insurance premiums. 100%.

She has also seen workers turn down promotions due to childcare issues.

“It would create a cliff of advantages,” she explained. “If they get the promotion and earn an extra $ 5-10 an hour then they wouldn’t qualify for child care subsidies and yet that is not enough money to pay for child care of children. “

Ultimately, it’s about getting parents, especially moms, back to work.

“If we are truly concerned about a fair economy and growing our economy, we need to put in place policies that support our working women,” said Crozier.

“We also have to recognize that women are not the only ones affected by these things.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Tassels.

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