Child care costs have long been a money burden for many American families. But the COVID-19 mitigation measures have left even more parents of young children at a financial and health impasse, according to a new survey.
Despite lockdowns lifting in many states, the majority of parents are reluctant to send their children back to childcare centers as they return to their jobs, according to new survey data from Care.com.
Coronavirus impacted the childcare plans of more than 8 in 10 families. Almost two-thirds of respondents who use daycare are somewhat or very uncomfortable returning their children to the facilities, the survey showed.
“Parents across America were struggling to find affordable and accessible childcare prior to COVID-19,” said Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com in a press statement. “But this challenge has been exacerbated by the pandemic and thrust our nation’s care crisis into the spotlight.”
Even if parents are comfortable with their children going to daycare again, many don’t know if they can send them. More than 2 in 5 parents reported their daycare provider plans to cut pupil capacity or has gone out of business. An additional 1 in 10 are still unsure about the status of their daycare provider.
For the parents who are exploring alternative arrangements for their children going forward, almost three-quarters have looked to in-home hired help, but 57% were immediately priced out due to the premium placed on individualized care set in your own home.
The pandemic has caused massive unemployment, with 20.5 million Americans jobless in May. With household budgets operating with reduced income and altered work arrangements, nearly half of parents are more concerned about the cost of childcare now than they were before the COVID-19 crisis. Half of these parents say they’re much more concerned.
To compound the issue, over half of parents report they anticipate the cost of childcare to rise post-pandemic and many say they don’t have a plan for paying the increased tuition bill.
A third have no plan for managing the rising costs. Of that, about 1 in 4 plan to cut corners with other expenses and 1 in 5 intend to draw on their savings.
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Childcare has always been considered a major cost center for parents of young children and is cited as the top-ranking unexpected cost by new parents, followed by diapers and formula, the survey found.
Over half of American families spend at least $10,000 annually on childcare. For perspective, it’s cheaper to pay for your teenage child to attend college than it is daycare — the average annual cost of in-state college tuition is $9,410, according to CollegeBoard.
The expense is so great and prohibitive that it’s priced out three-quarters of the country’s parents with only 1 in 4 families reporting they can comfortably afford childcare. Almost a quarter are unable to afford and just over half are able to afford it somewhat.
And that was pre-pandemic.
“Our economic recovery rests on people’s ability to get back to work and for parents,” Allen said. “That makes childcare indispensable.”
Now as parents struggle during the COVID-19 outbreak, the issue of child care costs weighs on them as they go to the polls in November.
Nearly all parents — 96% — said it’s important for government and business leaders to provide additional financial support for childcare as the country transitions out of quarantine. To that, 7 in 10 said childcare policies will impact how they vote.
“If we don’t take action now to solve this childcare crisis,” Allen said, “there will be huge ramifications for all of us.”