Across the country, parents are struggling to balance the need to work and financially support their families with the desire to protect their children’s health, safety, and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help families achieve this balance, policymakers should pursue solutions that help parents with lower-incomes afford child care, which, in turn, supports children’s development, parents’ work, and our national economic recovery.

Colleagues at the University of Oregon recently reported that lower-income families were more uncertain than higher-income families as to whether they would be able to return to their prepandemic child care arrangements as the economy reopens, with almost half (48 percent) of lower-income households reporting they either couldn’t return or weren’t certain they could, compared with only a quarter of higher-income households.

According to the data, one factor shaping parents’ confidence their ability to go back to their prepandemic child care is whether they lost a job because of the pandemic, which then affects both their ability to afford care and if and when they might need child care again. Only 16 percent of full-time working parents reported being unable or uncertain about returning to their prepandemic child care setting; this increased to 41 percent for unemployed parents who wanted to return to the workforce.

Dependable child care is critical not only for working parents but also parents who have lost jobs and don’t know how to get back into the workforce without child care supports. Helping these families pay for child care will help them regain employment, support their children’s safety and well-being, and stabilize their financial situation—supporting the country’s economic recovery.

Read the full article about low-income child care policy during COVID-19 by Gina Adams at Urban Institute.