Child Care ‘Crisis’ Slows US Economy

    31 October 2021

    Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, many American parents are having a difficult time balancing the needs of their children and work responsibilities.

    That is because many childcare centers in the United States have closed. The ones that remain open have limited spaces for additional children.

    Media reports say the problem is "a national crisis." The Associated Press (AP) notes that President Joe Biden is trying to include a "burst" of spending on children in the $1.9 trillion spending bill being considered by the U.S. Congress.

    The Biden administration has said it does not want parents to spend more than seven percent of their income on childcare costs. The administration also wants pre-school for very young children to be available to every family.

    Amy McCoy serves lunch to preschoolers at her Forever Young Daycare facility, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
    Amy McCoy serves lunch to preschoolers at her Forever Young Daycare facility, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    Betsey Stevenson is an economist at the University of Michigan. She said a change in the availability of childcare will make a difference in the U.S. economy for many years. She said it will do this by "influencing who returns to work, what types of jobs parents take and the career path they are able to follow."

    One of those parents is Bryan Kang of Los Angeles. He used to work as a therapist, teaching people how to physically recover from injuries or sickness.

    When he and his wife had a baby in July, he found that childcare centers were full. Without someone to take care of the baby, he could no longer leave home for work. He needed a job he could do from home.

    His new job permits him to teach at home using his computer, but he earns less money than before. Even if he had found a place for his baby, it would have been too costly. So for him to work from home was a better choice.

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called the childcare business "broken," because it is too costly for parents. But workers who take care of children also are not paid very much.

    Right now, many childcare workers are looking for new jobs. Some workers are now earning two times their former pay at new workplaces. The people who own childcare businesses cannot pay enough to replace them.

    Amy McCoy owns a childcare business called Forever Young Daycare near Seattle, Washington. She is getting tired of doing several jobs because some of her employees stopped working.

    "Nobody wants to work for what I can afford to pay right now," McCoy said. She thinks parents will have to face higher costs so she can raise the pay for new workers.

    The U.S. Treasury Department reported in September that many childcare workers are poor, earning less than $25,000 a year. At the same time, childcare businesses do not make much money for their owners.

    Briana McFadden used to run a childcare business in Washington. She closed it last month after 12 years. She thinks she would have stayed open if she got money from the government.

    "It really wasn't worth it to continue," she said. She plans to start a new business – a small store.

    Biden is still trying to find support for the spending bill from U.S. lawmakers. And it is not clear if his plan to support children and families will be included in the final spending bill.

    Donald Schneider is an economics expert who once worked for the U.S. Congress. He said he thinks the help for children and childcare will cost about $465 billion over 10 years if it is approved.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by The Associated Press. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

    What should the U.S. do about the cost of childcare? Tell us in the Comments Section and visit 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    burst – n. a short period of producing or doing something that begins suddenly

    type –n. a particular kind or group of things or people

    career –n. a job or profession that someone has for a long time

    therapist – n. a person trained in methods of treating illnesses especially without the use of drugs or surgery

    afford – v. to be able to pay for something