For many Americans, the scale of the coronavirus pandemic brings to mind the September 11th terror attacks or the 2008 financial crisis – events that reshaped society and how we view the world. While partisanship remains alive and well in American politics, we have seen a remarkable coming together on some of the most important issues facing us today. One such issue is child care. In our combined nearly 40 years measuring public opinion, rarely have we seen such broad agreement among Democratic and Republican voters as we see on the importance of the child care industry to the American family and economy. This is significant and should not be ignored by government decision makers across the country.
In an April 11-15 survey of 1,200 voters across America, we found 87% favored providing enough federal financial support during the crisis to enable child care providers to make payroll and pay other expenses such as rent and utilities. Of the 87% who favored the idea, 59% said they strongly favored it. This sentiment crossed partisan lines with support from 82% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats.
The national survey, commissioned by Save the Children Action Network and Child Care Aware of America, is the first to fully explore voters’ views on the child care industry and the impact of the coronavirus.
It revealed that voters further support a number of specific policy proposals to assist children, their parents, the child care industry, and the economy overall. More than more than 75% of respondents said they favored proposals to provide payroll support, reimburse essential workers for child care costs, provide increased pay for child care workers who offer services to front line workers, expand child care to serve areas where resources are limited, and establish emergency funding in the case of economic crisis. More than half said they strongly supported these proposals.
As we begin to look to the reopening of the economy, we must remember that renewed job creation and recovery will not happen with the flip of a switch. Child care is essential for many families to be able to return to work. As part of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) public Framework for Reopening America, experts identified the need for community settings where children are cared for, including child care centers, to allow the workforce to return.
Decision makers must also remember that nearly 6.5 million children are in a regular care arrangement with a non-parent provider. The child care industry contributes approximately $100 billion to our economy and employs more than 1.5 million people. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, more than 60% of licensed child care providers have already shut down because of the crisis. COVID-19 has had a huge negative effect on the industry and a powerful impact on the public sentiment due to its unique importance.
Despite CDC guidance and the overwhelming support of voters across party lines, policymakers have failed to prioritize child care in relief efforts. With more than $2 trillion in bailouts already handed out to hotels, cruise lines, banks, airlines and other businesses, Head Start and other early childhood care and education centers have received only a small percentage of funding.
Voters are clear on these issues. Child care is not simply another small business. Child care is a vital industry indispensable to American families and crucial to a strong economic recovery. Leaders in Washington, D.C. – together with candidates for public office – must put the child care industry at the forefront of the agenda. They must ensure that all child care providers are able to open as soon as it is safe to do so – so that millions of families are able to start jobs as soon as they become available. If we are going to get Americans back to work, then the federal government must recognize the unique importance of the child care industry, and start supporting it.
Michael Meyers is the partner and president of TargetPoint Consulting. Anna Greenberg is the managing partner of GQR.