COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our nation’s workforce, one that has been especially hard on working mothers. In the face of this crisis, moms in Nevada and all across America have consistently gone above and beyond. They’ve had to make difficult choices and faced near-impossible challenges as they try to care for their families. Unfortunately, many of these same working mothers have been forced to leave the workforce through no fault of their own. According to the secretary of Labor, getting women back in the workforce will be central to a robust recovery. As we take steps to rebuild our workforce and reopen our state and the rest of the country, we have to address the lack of access to quality, affordable child care in America, an issue that has severely hampered working parents and been a source of worry for American families -- even before the pandemic. We’re working in Congress in a bipartisan way to solve this all too common problem by making child care more accessible.
It's often women who bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving responsibilities for children and family members, frequently while also holding down a job. Accessible child care has provided countless working women with much-needed support that they rely on as they balance work responsibilities and caring for their families. However, options for affordable, quality child care are often few and far between for working families in Nevada and those all over the United States.
Under normal circumstances, a lack of child care hurts the financial stability of American families and stunts our economic growth. But during the pandemic the lack of access to child care worsened, and it has hit working families the hardest. In 2020, nearly 30 percent of our state’s licensed child care facilities closed, many of them permanently.
This extended absence of child care is a major factor in the forced departure of working mothers from the workforce. Since the pandemic’s onset, more than 2 million women have left the workforce, bringing the total number of working women down to a 30-year low.
Even before the pandemic, options for quality, affordable child care were not an easy thing to come by, with half of all families in the U.S reporting difficulty finding access to it and living in “child care deserts”. In 2019, the yearly average cost of child care for Nevadans was close to $11,500; That’s more expensive than the average price of in-state tuition for college. This kind of astronomical cost is utterly unsustainable for Nevada’s working families.
Child care is an issue that has not received the support or attention that it deserves, given its importance to our economy. As mothers, we have first-hand experience with the challenges that working women face and the important role that child care plays in overcoming those challenges. And as legislators, we are committed to helping Nevada and our nation recover from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. We can do that by creating policies that support Nevada’s working moms and dads, and giving them the help they need to re-enter the workforce.
For these reasons, we joined together to introduce the Small Business Child Care Investment Act in both the House and the Senate. Non-profit child care facilities can be an affordable option for working families. This bipartisan legislation would not only help prevent the closures of non-profit child care facilities, but it would actually allow them to expand their operations by providing these facilities with access to the same U.S. Small Business Administration loans currently available to for-profit child care small businesses. This bill will create jobs, support our struggling small businesses, and help increase the availability of affordable, high-quality child care to more working families. As a result, we will be giving children the care they need and allowing parents to get back to their careers if they so choose.
We’re at a moment where we can make real change to benefit our workforce. We are proud to join together to lead a bipartisan, bicameral effort to address this long-standing issue. We also have an Administration in place at the White House that is ready and willing to work alongside Congress as we take care of working parents and take steps to relieve the disproportionate burden on women by rebuilding and revamping America’s child care system.
Together, we can take important steps to support existing providers, promote expansion and new operations, and help lower the costs so that all families can access quality child care. During these difficult times, we should be giving families one less thing to worry about. If we’re serious about supporting working families, then it’s time to prioritize access to quality, affordable child care.
Jacky Rosen is the junior U.S. Senator in Nevada. Rep. Susie Lee represents Congressional District 3.