When schools in northern California shut down in mid-March due to the coronavirus, Casino Fajardo and his wife did their best to balance watching their children while working full-time. For several months, they switched off supervising their children, 5 and 9, while taking back-to-back video calls and responding to in-person work responsibilities, which were at times required for Fajardo in his role as construction director for a local school district. Both often stayed up until midnight or later to catch up on work.

But they had few options. Their children’s grandparents are elderly and more at risk of contracting coronavirus. Joining a “pod” with several families would be complicated and expensive; some parents are spending upwards of $1,000 a month per child to do so this year. Instead, the Fajardo’s turned to their local YMCA for help. Their children began attending a local center for daily care that evolved into distance learning support when school started in August.

At the Y, their children receive meals, time to play outside and extension activities, like science class, all at a cost that is subsidized for many families and free to others, depending on the location of the center and each family’s income.

The continuation of distance learning has put millions of families in an untenable position: in 2019, 76 percent of mothers and 92 percent of fathers whose youngest child was between the age of 6 and 17 were employed. Affluent parents have turned to pricey options such as pods, tutoring centers or karate and dance studios that have transformed to offer distance learning supervision (some advertise prices that run upwards of $14,000 each semester). But a few organizations, including the YMCA, have stepped up to provide crucial, free or affordable child care assistance.

Read the full article about affordable COVID-19 child care by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report.