A career in business that spanned more than four decades provided me with a valuable perspective on some of the more dramatic ups and downs that our economy—and our nation—experienced during that time.
But nothing I witnessed was quite like the pandemic we face today.
The COVID-19 health emergency affects nearly every aspect of our society. Every one of us has been impacted in some way. In particular, though, COVID-19 impacts one sector that will be an instrumental part of our economic recovery: child care.
The current pandemic connects to child care providers in two profound ways. First, most child care providers are fundamentally small businesses. Widespread stay-at-home orders, a massive increase in teleworking, and millions of Americans joining the unemployment rolls dramatically impacts child care providers’ ability to remain in business for the duration of the pandemic, even if their local authorities haven’t ordered them to close already.
At the same time, though, child care providers are still a crucial part of our economy today. That’s because, in some areas, they continue to furnish needed services for working families who are on the front lines of this pandemic, such as health care professionals and first responders, as well as those workers still going to work every day and contributing to our economy, like public transportation operators, grocery store workers, delivery personnel, and truck and freight operators.
The impact of COVID-19 comes at a time when our nation is already in the midst of an infant-and-toddler child care crisis. As the recent ReadyNation research report, “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis,” showed, working parents’ difficulty in finding affordable, high-quality child care for their young children costs our nation $57 billion every single year. This impact touches every state across the country to some extent, and that massive figure comes from diminished productivity, reduced taxpayer revenue, and lower earnings.
Our child care sector, already fragile and in need of strengthening and expansion, now stands to become even weaker at the very time that it will be needed most.
Like all Americans, I want us to prevail against this pandemic as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to our economy restarting and becoming strong again. While we don’t know when that will happen, we need to be ready when it does.
A core part of that preparedness will be making sure that the child care sector remains viable. Child care providers need to be able to sustain operations now, so that, when our country does go back to work, those providers will be ready to care for the children of working parents.
I’m grateful that Congress has been mindful of the unique needs of child care providers in the CARES Act relief. It’s vital that further economic relief targeted at combating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic always includes considerations for child care providers.
Without those considerations, an already-inadequate child care supply will be diminished further, placing added stress on American working families once this public-health emergency is behind us, and worsening the damage caused by the infant-and-toddler child care crisis.
By sustaining the child care sector, our working families will be better positioned to return to work and help get our nation back on its collective feet. And, once we achieve that first goal of sustaining the sector, we’ll be in a position to continue to expand and strengthen child care, providing the access to high-quality care that working parents—and their children—desperately need.
Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus, former CEO, and Senior Advisor of the Vanguard Group; Co-Chair, ReadyNation CEO Task Force on Early Childhood