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As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: (more…)

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“Child care is a workforce issue, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier:

• Investments in the child care workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for child care workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality child care.

• Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of child care available to communities, families and child care providers both benefit.

• Investing in the business side of child care. Stabilizing and growing the child care industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing child care programs and launch new, quality options will prevent child care deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.

“Many states are already leading by example.

“Arizona channeled $300 million in federal resources into return-to-work incentive programs that include $2,000 bonuses for those who return to the workforce, three months of child care assistance for people with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.”
 

“States taking the boldest actions on child care should be national models,” by Cheryl Oldham, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, July 15, 2021

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“There’s nothing like a national crisis to get the country thinking about child care. An obvious and recent example is the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s the opening of Season 2, Episode 1 of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s “600 Atlantic” podcast (named after the bank’s address).

The first season covered the country’s geographic disparities, the “widening gaps in economic and social well-being between regions.”

“Season 2: A Private Crisis” looks at the fact that, “The nation’s child care system is broken. Parents strain to afford it, low-paid workers struggle to stay in it, and high-quality care is hard to find. This puts perpetual stress on families and the economy. Still, major reform has been elusive.”

One glimmer of hope: The pandemic has forced the country to appreciate child care’s importance. (more…)

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“Even for parents whose children have already returned to school, pandemic-related care challenges rage on.

“James Smith, who works as a financial analyst at a mid-sized bank in the Dallas area, is back in the office full-time already. His wife, a pharmacist, never stopped going to work.

Although they are both vaccinated and their 2- and 5-year-old kids are back at daycare and kindergarten, the pandemic is still disrupting their lives.

“ ‘Covid is still fairly prevalent in the community,’ he told CNN Business. ‘Our oldest has been subject to two quarantines in March and April,’ because of possible exposure at school. For Smith, that meant working from home again, which he said created friction with his employer, or getting help from his elderly parents, who are at greater risk from the virus.

“ ‘There aren’t really any statutory [rules] if your kid is out of school,’ because of Covid exposure, he said. ‘It’s kind of a rush to get back to normal on the business side. I question whether or not that’s considering what’s actually going in the community.’ ”

“Offices are reopening. For parents, that raises a childcare problem,” by Anneken Tappe, CNN Business, May 19, 2021

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Working mother

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United States to acknowledge how weak its child care system is – and how child care’s struggles can quickly create chaos for working mothers.

Abigail Usherwood, a Strategies for Children intern, explores this issue in the newly released policy brief, “COVID-19 and Gender Inequality in the Workforce.”

Even before the pandemic, Underwood writes, women establishing their careers faced more challenges than men. There is still a stubborn wage gap: nationally, for every dollar men earn, women earn $0.81.

Factor race in, Usherwood explains, and the problem grows worse.

“In the United States, Black women lag even further behind in terms of the gender wage gap. On average, for every $1.00 a white, non-Latino man makes, a Black woman will only earn $0.63.”

Factor in the pandemic, and it’s clear that women are under intense pressure from the expectation that they will “balance household duties, like child care, with career responsibilities, and, during the pandemic, remote schooling. All of these responsibilities compound, creating barriers for women to progress in the workforce.”

One economically devastating outcome is a gender-based workforce participation gap:

(more…)

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state will revise its COVID-19 policies, a move that includes good news for early education and care providers.

“…the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June,” a press release from the governor’s office explains, and “all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.”

Massachusetts will also update its guidance on masks and face coverings to be consistent with recent mask updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, individual businesses and employers in Massachusetts will still be able to set their own mask rules.

On June 15, 2021, Baker will end the state of emergency that was triggered by the pandemic.

What does this mean for early educators?

The governor and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)are providing answers.

As the governor’s press release says, as of today, the Department of Early Education and Care will “no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess.” This guidance will “remain in effect beyond May 29.” Children and adults should, however, continue to wear masks when they are indoors.

EEC also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding the current version of the state’s Child Care Playbook that provide additional useful information. Some partial examples are:

(more…)

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Photo: Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Across the country, preschool directors are all saying the same thing: It is incredibly hard to hire early educators.

One of countless examples is the Granite Start Early Learning Center in Nashua, N.H.

This is where “owner Joyce Goodwin said the phone hardly stops ringing as families hunt desperately for child care,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Goodwin “gets calls every day from parents looking for a place to put their children as they return to work, and weekend tours of the center are reliably full.” She could accept another 10 or 12 children, “but only if she could hire three more teachers.”

Despite placing want ads, Goodwin can’t find candidates. She’s up against the same problem as other directors, salaries in child care are “notoriously” low.

“Over the past year, hundreds of trained child care workers have left the field in search of higher-paying work and jobs that feel less dangerous in a pandemic,” the Union Leader says.

Early Learning NH conducted a workforce survey of “196 business owners, who together own about 40% of the 700 licensed day cares in the state,” and found similar circumstances. 

“Those owners could accommodate almost 2,300 more children day care — if only they could hire enough staff,” specifically 643 more staff members.

(more…)

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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

(more…)

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“I feel a great responsibility to remember and think of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school staff, CEOs, and community leaders who have shown up every day for children and families to start with this pandemic.

“We continue to be inspired by this resilient workforce, but we know that is not enough. We cannot return to the way things were. We cannot call child care essential for the economy and then continue to have 37% of early educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance. We cannot make decisions about the K-to-12 side of this system without considering the implications for babies, toddlers, before- and afterschool, summer and school vacations. We cannot give access to consistent testing to people in one part of the system and not continue to think about the children and families, and [about] the [early education] teachers who are there every day with children.”

“We know that families don’t live in funding streams, but many of our decisions have been based on those funding streams.”

[Amy starts speaking at the video’s 1:00 time mark.]

— Amy O’Leary, “Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision,” A New America webcast, March 30, 2021

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“The COVID-19 pandemic helped expose how critical reliable child care is to working parents. Now many employers are trying to figure out how to incorporate child care help into benefits plans, says Alyssa Johnson, the vice president of global client management at Care.com.

” ‘This past year we saw employers had literally a front row seat into the homes and lives of their employees and the challenges that many of us with small children and children at home are facing,’ said Johnson told 3 On Your Side. ‘As a result, there’s really been a fundamental shift in seeing the whole person at work, not just the worker.’

“According to the company’s survey of hundreds of HR leaders:

• 98% plan to expand benefits, and for half, child care benefits are a priority
• 82% say their organizations have become more aware of the care challenges their employees are facing during the pandemic
• 64% report high attrition rates, with employees almost always citing child care concerns as a major factor
• 50% believe the positive impacts outweigh the added cost of child care benefits”

“More employers are looking to help working parents with child care,” Susan Campbell, azfamily.com, March 2, 2021

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