It factors into many Americans’ decisions whether to even have a child. Parents – mothers especially – often weigh the cost of childcare in their decision to return to work. And when a kid has a disability, there may not even be childcare options that meet the family’s needs.
When schools and childcare facilities were forced to close or restrict access during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions more American parents and guardians – men and women alike – found themselves suddenly facing childcare insecurity. This affected their well-being and mental health.
A group of health psychologists surveyed parents throughout the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 4% of the parents reported having high stress levels “before COVID-19.” But by May 2020, that share had ballooned to 22%.
Meanwhile, sociologists who surveyed and interviewed US mothers in April and May of 2020 found that not having childcare affected mothers’ interpersonal interactions – such as increased frustration with their children – and quality of life.
How common is it?
In January 2020, 26 million working caregivers in the US “did not have an in-home care option” – whether a parent, grandparent or older sibling – for children 14 years and younger, according to a Rand Corp. analysis of data from the US Department of Labor.
A World Bank Report from December 2020 estimated that globally, over 40% of all children who needed quality childcare or preschool in 2018 did not have access to it. That’s nearly 350 million kids.
President Joe Biden has proposed some national policies to address childcare insecurity in the US – for example, limiting the percentage of income families need to spend on childcare to 7% by providing subsidies to care providers. This would likely improve access.
However, childcare insecurity is not always based on economic constraints. The quality of childcare, location, hours, and access for children with disabilities can all play a role as well.
The Conversation US publishes short, accessible explanations of newsworthy subjects by academics in their areas of expertise.
Sen. Bernie Sanders indicated that he would oppose a Democrat-only spending bill if its price tag didn’t top $3 trillion, brushing anything lower as too meager. It may set the stage for a confrontation between Sanders and moderate Democrats looking to restrain the size of a follow-up package.
In an interview with New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd published Saturday, the Vermont senator ruled out backing a party-line infrastructure plan that amounted to either $2 trillion or $3 trillion.
“That’s much too low,” he told Dowd. He also pulled out a list of his priorities for a reconciliation package.
They appeared to include broadband, climate, childcare, universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave, Medicare expansion and housing among others.
“Does anyone deny that our child care system, for example, is a disaster?” Sanders told Dowd. “Does anyone deny that pre-K, similarly, is totally inadequate? Does anyone deny that there’s something absurd that our young people can’t afford to go to college or are leaving school deeply in debt? Does anybody deny that our physical infrastructure is collapsing?”
Sanders’s remarks could potentially set up a showdown with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as Democrats move ahead with a reconciliation spending package. Reconciliation is a legislative tactic Democrats are poised to use and circumvent Republicans because only a simple majority is needed for certain bills.
The party holds a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate that relies on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Every Senate Democrat must be onboard as a result or else the package fails.
Manchin has made clear he favors a party-line package that’s fully paid for with tax increases and doesn’t grow the national debt. He previously suggested a $2 trillion price tag.
“I’ve agreed that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount,” he told MSNBC late last month. “I haven’t seen everything that everybody is wanting to put into the bill.”
As chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders wields enormous influence over reconciliation since the panel helps set overall spending levels. Senate Democrats are weighing up to $6 trillion in spending aimed at overhauling the economy with new initiatives in childcare, higher education, monthly cash payments to families, and clean energy programs.
Manchin along with a few other Senate Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia have already balked at supporting $6 trillion in spending, making cuts likely.
President Joe Biden has already struck a $1 trillion infrastructure agreement with a centrist group of lawmakers concentrated on roads, bridges, and highways. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dug in on not passing the plan until the Senate also approves a separate reconciliation package containing measures unlikely to draw Republican support.
It’s unclear whether it will ultimately pass, given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t thrown his support behind it yet. For now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Democrats to gear up for potentially long days ahead to kick off the reconciliation process before the August recess next month.
“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do,” Schumer wrote Friday in a letter to Senate Democrats. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”
Melissa Wirt is the mother of five and owner of nursing apparel company Latched Mama.
She created new policies and adjusted older ones to help her employees who are parents during the pandemic.
Around 10 million US mothers with school-age children were not actively working in January.
This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.
In one corner of Melissa Wirt’s warehouse, an employee prepared orders next to her daughter, who was attending virtual kindergarten. Meanwhile, an employee’s spouse was learning the ropes so he could join the company while she acted as the primary caregiver.
“We don’t have an HR department, so everything really runs through me,” said Wirt, the founder of breastfeeding clothing company Latched Mama. “Everybody was able to get whatever they needed during the pandemic.”
At a time when 10 million US mothers with school-age children aren’t actively working, Wirt has spent the last 15 months creating new policies and adjusting older ones for working parents to foster a supportive environment. Her leadership strategy has been one of flexibility and support, treating each scenario as its own case with its own unique solution.
“Our ‘why’ at Latched Mama has always been supporting parents, since the day we built the brand,” said Wirt, reflecting on her ability to assist working parents during the crisis. “It was relatively easy when the culture was already set up to allow people to be parents first and just adapt to what they needed.”
Building solutions based on specific needs
Wirt was already the mother of two children when she hatched the idea for her business, which she runs out of her hometown of Midlothian, Virginia. She struggled to find affordable nursing clothes, and in 2014 launched Latched Mama to solve that problem.
Since then, she’s had three more children and spearheaded a generous family leave program; new parents can take 100 days of paid leave and bring their children to the office until their first birthday.
When COVID-19 reached the US, prompting schools to launch remote learning and daycare centers to temporarily close, Wirt knew her employees would need help balancing their careers and children.
“My philosophy as a business owner is that I want somebody to be able to bring their entire self to work,” said Wirt, who manages a 40-person company. “And it’s really hard to bring your entire self when people don’t realize that your entire self also includes your children.”
Wirt worked with each employee to find a solution for their specific need, which often included allowing parents to bring their children to work, encouraging flexible hours, and approving paid leave.
Other times, if one employee was the primary caregiver and their spouse was out of work, Wirt found ways to get them on the company payroll. She tapped that person’s expertise along with offering training sessions for newcomers.
“We were flexible about training entire families because we found that would help us make sure that needs are being met at home as well as needs for us as a company,” Wirt said.
While Wirt’s strategies were tackled on a case-by-case basis, she believes some of those pandemic-inspired policies might endure.
For example, she doesn’t feel the need to drag employees back to the office if they’ve found a rhythm to working from home.
“Most business owners feel the last 15 months have been a complete blur of survival and adapting and pivoting,” Wirt said. “We’re just going to adapt to what’s working now and the new normal.”
Does it mean roads, broadband, and other physical structures included in the traditional meaning of infrastructure? Or should it have a broader definition that includes other important parts of the economy, such as workers who care for children, older adults, and people with disabilities?
The number of people doing this type of work has exploded over the past 70 years, driven by an aging population, expanding medical technologies, and the large-scale entrance of women into the paid labor force. My calculations show that in 2018 more than 23 million workers – almost 15% of the US labor force – worked in the care sector, up from just under 3 million in 1950.
While the overall care economy is dominated by women, the two areas that are the focus of Biden’s plan – child care and home care – are even more so. I found that over 85% of the 3.6 million people employed as home health workers, personal care aides, and nursing assistants are women. These people meet the health care needs of older adults and disabled individuals and also provide assistance with daily living activities like bathing, dressing, and eating.
The share of the 1.3 million child care workers who are women is even higher, at about 93%.
Both job categories are also disproportionately made up of people of color and immigrants. For example, 30% of home health and personal care aides are Black and 26% are immigrants. Among child care workers, 24% are Hispanic and 22% are immigrants.
Why care work is ‘essential’
The pandemic has shown just how essential this workforce is to the US economy, as well as to families and communities.
Care workers, broadly speaking, made up fully half of all those deemed “essential critical infrastructure workers” at the beginning of the pandemic by the Department of Homeland Security. This designation was used to identify workers who “protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
In effect, it meant they could continue to go to work despite state lockdowns, risking their own health and that of their families.
Care workers overall earn 18% less than other essential workers, such as police officers, bus drivers, and sanitation workers, after controlling for the usual factors that depress wages, such as gender, years of education, and depth of work experience.
And the workers targeted by Biden’s plan are at the low end of this devalued sector, with some of the lowest wages in the US labor market. In 2020, the average annual salary for home health care and personal care aides, for example, was $28,060, and for child care workers it was $26,790. These are near poverty wages, barely exceeding the federal poverty threshold of $26,200 for a household of four.
Similarly, when children receive high-quality child care, they benefit – but so do their families, their parents’ employers, their own future employers, and their future partner or children. The benefits are significant but dispersed.
The picture of American employment – and unemployment – is a confusing one right now.
Some employers say there’s a rampant labor shortage in sectors of the economy such as restaurants, with workers opting to remain on generous unemployment benefits instead of returning to work. The April jobs report on Friday showed that employers added 266,000 jobs, an amount well below forecasts for a million new payrolls or more.
The data provided new heft for Republicans and business groups to argue that the $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits from President Joe Biden’s stimulus are keeping people from seeking open jobs, curtailing the economic recovery. The Chamber of Commerce slammed the jobless aid, saying in a statement that “the disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market.”
The labor-shortage increasingly looks evident, as job openings data from March out on Tuesday morning show openings at an all-time high and the job-filling rate at an all-time low, per Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.
Some large companies are increasing hourly pay to fill open positions and coax people who left the labor force or drawing down unemployment to accept a new job. Chipotle announced on Monday it was raising pay for workers by around $2 an hour, bringing its average pay to $15 per hour by June for all employees. It’s one of several major employers to hike compensation over the last year, including Walmart and Amazon.
Some chain restaurants in the historically low-paying industry are also expanding the type of incentives they’re offering prospective hires instead of hiking hourly pay. They range from signing bonuses to leadership conferences to 401(k) matching. Still, the Biden administration is doubling down on its stance that simply paying workers higher wages will speed up the recovery.
“My expectation is that, as our economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments,” Biden said Monday from the White House. “And if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers and we’re all going to come out of this together better than before.”
The childcare effect
Childcare is a prohibitive factor in preventing workers from returning, according to experts. A UBS note last week said that, while the “impact of the unemployment benefits may be overstated,” a large participation gap remains among workers with young kids – a key group in the labor market.
“I think we’ve all been very hopeful that we’re turning the corner, and we’re moving forward, and that components of this pandemic – that the big principal issues of the pandemic are behind us – but I think that we need to rethink that,” Misty L. Heggeness, a principal economist and senior advisor at the US Census Bureau, told Insider.
“That’s not true for a subset of our workforce. I think we’ve seen improvements until now because these have been the low-hanging fruits.” The lack of childcare is “crippling” our ability to return to work and facilitate economic growth, she said.
According to an analysis from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), 165,000 women dropped out of the labor force in April. Women only accounted for 161,000 of the jobs added in April. That means that – not accounting for any population growth – it will take women 28 months to return to pre-pandemic employment levels at that pace.
On Monday, the White House said it would be accelerating the distribution of childcare assistance included in the American Rescue Plan. Childcare is also a major plank of Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.
‘Some upward pressure in wages’
The April jobs report showed wages climbing modestly overall, which could partly be due to businesses ramping up efforts to lure people back into the workforce. A Bank of America note on Monday from a team led by Joseph Song noted that average hourly earnings rose 0.7% for all workers after the latest April jobs report.
“When you dig into the details, you saw some pretty remarkable increases in wages in categories like transportation and warehousing, retail, leisure, and hospitality – all sectors that should be seeing a real boom in demand and hiring,” Michelle Meyer, the head of securities at Bank of America’s US economics team, told Bloomberg. “There’s obviously some friction there where there’s a whole lot of demand for workers but there isn’t enough of a supply at the moment and that’s creating some upward pressure in wages.”
Still, wages aren’t rising quickly enough to address the hiring shortage. Employers may be reluctant to hike pay at this stage, fearful that high consumer demand could taper off later in the year and leave them with excessive payroll costs.
“You’re competing with a temporary unemployment supplement,” Neal Bradley, executive vice president of policy at the Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times. “You’re not going to make a permanent wage adjustment for a temporary, government-induced distortion,” he said, referring to the September expiration of expanded federal aid.
Biden has defended the $300 federal jobless aid as a measure that isn’t dissuading people from leaping back into the workforce. However, on Monday he said that the Labor Department would be helping states reimpose job-hunting requirements that were largely waived during the pandemic.
“We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” he said. Twenty-nine states have already done so, according to a White House fact sheet.
President Joe Biden wants to establish universal pre-K as part of his infrastructure package, proposing a $200 billion investment. The White House estimates the program could benefit 5 million children, and save the average family $13,000.
But it could have a bigger impact: A new study finds that kids who attended universal pre-K are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.
The study, conducted by researchers from University of Chicago, MIT, and UC Berkeley, looked at 4,000 public preschool applicants in Boston; they compared the outcomes of students randomly selected by lottery for the program versus those whose numbers were not called.
Attending that universal pre-K did not have a “detectable” impact on standardized test scores. It did, however, have notable impacts elsewhere: The students that enrolled in preschool were 6% more likely to graduate from high school. They were also likely to enroll in the SAT, and to enroll in college.
In the short term, too, students fared better behaviorally: The likelihood of juvenile incarceration went down, along with the total number of high-school suspensions. Benefits were widespread. Students across races and incomes felt benefits similarly, with boys seeing a slightly impact.
“Notwithstanding the gender difference, this study suggests that all students – regardless of race or income – are likely to benefit from a universal preschool program,” the researchers wrote in a brief.
Universal pre-K and affordable childcare could also have a big impact on parents
The American Families Plan contains several childcare-centered provisions, with universal pre-K as one of its planks. Biden has also proposed $225 billion in funding for affordable childcare. An analysis from the National Women’s Law Center and Columbia University found that access to affordable childcare doesn’t just benefit children; it could boost lifetime earnings for women with two children by $94,000.
Additionally, access to universal childcare options would also boost the number of women – especially mothers – in the workforce, an issue that’s come into stark relief with the surprisingly dismal April jobs report.
According to the NWLC and Columbia, expanding childcare access could increase the number of women with young children working full-time by 17%.
Biden has proposed increasing income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and upping capital gains rate – along with closing some potential loopholes and cracking down on tax enforcement – to offset the costs of his childcare proposals.
“We can take … this money and pay for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America,” Biden said in remarks on the American Families Plan. He added that it’s a choice:
“[Is it] more important to shield millionaires from paying their fair share? Or is it more important that every child gets a real opportunity to succeed from an early age and ease the burden on working families?”
“Sorry, I can’t make that meeting because I have to pick up my kid.”
“Sorry about my kid talking during the call; school just got out.”
“Sorry honey, you have to stay in aftercare for a bazillion dollars so Mommy doesn’t get fired.”
Moms are always saying sorry, but we didn’t cause this mess. And by mess, I mean the status quo in the United States that we all accept as normal, but which is actually mind-bogglingly stupid: The school day and the work day don’t line up.
I think about this all the time, but especially this week, as every email filtered into my “Promotions” tab tried to sell me the perfect gift to celebrate my special day.
Hey mama, you deserve lingerie! A fashionable Covid mask! A four-course meal at a restaurant you’ve never been to in a town you lived in 15 years ago!
My husband asked me what he and our two boys should get me for Mother’s Day and my mind went completely blank. All I really want for Mother’s Day is for work and school to end at the same time so all parents – but, yes, mostly mothers – can stop constantly being put in the impossible situation of picking between work and kids.
Impossible childcare gaps
Last week, after another bullshit Mother’s Day email pinged, I tweeted about this problem, and it hit a nerve. Probably because there are millions of parents in America experiencing the utter chaos of this simple timing mismatch on a daily basis.
“Every day from 2:45-4 p.m., I’m working on my laptop in my car during softball practice,” one mom told me.
A teacher replied: “I’m a teacher and it’s impossible for me to 1. Make sure ALL my students are going home safely and as expected when dismissal starts at 3 p.m. WHILE 2. Getting my sons by 3:30. I can’t imagine how 9 to 5 parents survive if they are in an inflexible job.” She added, “and then I feel horrible for the teacher that must wait with my child because I’m late because I was waiting with someone’s child. It’s a snowball rolling downhill.”
That snowball affects not just parents, teachers, and kids, but a cobbled-together industry of after-school and part-time childcare programs – which depend on low-paying care jobs with no benefits or security – and the goodwill and free labor of relatives tasked with filling these gaps.
There are innumerable ways that our society is currently designed to deprioritize the needs of children and families, but to me, none is more glaring than this. For one day each year we tell moms they are worthy of foot massages, candy, and fancy face masks, while the rest of the year, our culture and policies leave parents to fend for themselves.
I’m not asking for the school day to go until 6 p.m., necessarily. Perhaps work and school could both end around 4 p.m., creating something closer to a 35-hour work week, which is still more hours than the 4-day work week that countries like Spain and New Zealand have adopted.
We need a systemic structure that spreads the responsibility for children’s wellbeing around so the burden doesn’t fall entirely on the parents. Let me spell out just a few of the ways the current system is absurd.
If the US government had a central HR department, this is what the conversation about having kids would sound like
So, you want to have kids, huh?
Well, if you live in a major metropolitan area, you’re going to need to set aside anywhere from $10,000–$29,500 each year for daycare (and more like $33,000 for a nanny), even though childcare workers in your area are likely paid poverty-level wages and often have children of their own who they can’t afford to send to the childcare center where they work. If you can’t afford that, maybe you should think of taking care of your own kids?
Now, early childhood education is extremely important for development, but the government doesn’t provide any, so you’ll need around $1,350 each month for preschool when your child is between ages 3 and 5 – and more if you live in a place like California. It’s just 2-3 years, so at most it’s an extra $48,600. Unless you have two kids in daycare at once, haha!
Once your kid is in elementary school, class starts promptly anywhere from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and in some cities – oh, like San Francisco, where you live! – some kids get placed in schools miles and miles away, and there are no school busses to get them there. But they cannot be late. Also, school ends around 2:35 p.m., so try to find a job that pays you enough to afford your city but also is over by 2 p.m., since you’ll need to factor in traffic.
DO NOT TAKE WORK CALLS IN THE CAR. Before you even consider multitasking, we must remind you that talking on a hand-held phone in most metropolitan areas is illegal, and so is texting, so just because your boss is Slacking, “WHERE ARE YOU? THE MTG IS NOW” doesn’t mean you can text back, “im in line 2 pick up kid, so sorry.”
Or you could enroll them in sports or extracurricular classes. Start saving for those when they are babies, and don’t forget you’ll need to pick them up and drop them off and pick them up again, so ideally, you should be able to work from a parking lot. Also, you better have a car.
Don’t forget schools are out for the whole summer, but work doesn’t stop, nor does the government provide any universal alternative for the summer months, so, you might want to get on some summer camp lists! But be warned, those fill up quickly, cost thousands of dollars, and also usually end at 3 p.m. But hey, maybe you can bring your kid to work with you all summer! That sounds fun!
Our parental policies are living in the past
The structure of our society is set up for an era that no longer exists, when dads worked and moms didn’t. Moms were meant to keep the kids home until kindergarten, provide their early childhood education, walk them to school once they were old enough, pick them up at the end of the day, and watch them for the whole summer. Not only is that largely not what people want anymore, it’s also just not possible.
We live in an economy that all but requires both parents to work – if there are two parents – and if there is only one parent, it absolutely requires that parent to work. We also live in a culture where paid work is valued above all – not just monetarily, but in terms of prestige and a sense of personal dignity – so that for many parents the prospect of “just” being a parent is unfathomable, even though that work is incredibly hard.
For Mothers’ Day, what I really want is recognition that one day of gifts and massages is not enough to make up for the ways we leave moms to deal with all of this alone. Like so many other systemic problems, we treat this as though it’s the duty of individuals to solve for their own lives. But that makes no sense, and it’s not working.
Obviously systemic change won’t be easy. Even for the problem of when school and work end, you can’t just snap your fingers and say, OK, line them up. But we should at least begin by admitting that it would be better and should be the goal. Along with policies like public preschool and a livable minimum wage requirement for caregivers, aligning the work and school days is an obvious fix for a huge problem that parents spend inordinate amounts of time stressing about and dealing with. This shouldn’t be normal, it’s cruel. And a day to pamper moms doesn’t make up for it.
President Joe Biden promised his Cabinet would be the most diverse in history. Recently released data revealed his progress.
After saying he wanted his administration to “look like America” in December last year, the 78-year-old president has mostly succeeded in his plan to diversify the executive branch, according to an analysis by Insider in February.
As the country tries to emerge from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, Biden has installed a diverse team to forward his economic and business agenda, which includes tackling entrenched inequities.
Last week marked the first 100 days of the Biden administration. We take a look at some of the actions taken since his January inauguration to promote diversity in business, the workplace and support communities disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A $2 trillion infrastructure plan that targets funding towards underserved neighborhoods
Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure bill sets out to repair the country’s dilapidated road and bridge network, expand access to high-speed broadband and accelerate the clean energy transition.
The American Jobs Plan targets infrastructure projects towards historically underserved communities. The plan includes proposals to replace lead pipes that disproportionately harm Black children and a $20 billion investment to “reconnect” previously cut-off areas to affordable public transportation systems.
However, Republicans have opposed the bill, citing its “far-left” priorities and the corporate tax hike Biden has said will finance the plan.
Proposed funding to build a diverse clean-energy workforce, with investments targeted towards historically Black colleges
Biden’s administration is pushing for more solar panels to be installed in communities disproportionately affected by pollution, as part of his American Jobs Plan.
The Department of Energy announced on Tuesday that $15.5 million would go into installing solar panels in underserved communities and training a diverse clean-energy workforce.
The DOE also committed $17.3 million to fund internship and research programs, with a focus on training more students of color in STEM fields. More than $5 million will be directed to 11 colleges, including historically Black universities Howard and Florida A&M.
Historically Black colleges have long been denied equal access to federal funding opportunities, DOE secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a roundtable discussion at Howard University on Monday.
“This administration is really committed to making the transition to clean energy an inclusive transition, offering benefits to every community,” Granholm said.
A plan to introduce 12 weeks of paid family leave – and Biden hopes it will encourage women to stay in the workforce
The plan is estimated to cost $225 billion over 10 years.
The Biden administration hopes that introducing 12-weeks of paid family leave will help mothers to keep working, reduce racial disparities in lost wages, and improve children’s health.
Biden’s plan also commits to providing support for low- and middle-income families to access childcare, ensuring this does not account for more than 7% of their income, and investing in the childcare workforce.
The new order instead advances a “whole-of-government” approach to addressing racial inequities, and asks federal agencies to consider whether their policies and programs create barriers for underserved communities to access their benefits and services.
Targeted Covid-19 relief, including protections for those in insecure work
The landmark $1.9 trillion stimulus package includes funding commitments to help communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
In the law, signed in March, $5 billion is provided to farmers of color to invest in their business, buy equipment and repay loans.
“This is a big deal for us,” John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, told CBS. “We see this as a great opportunity to help thousands.”
In the package, unemployment insurance for self-employed and gig workers, such as ride-share and takeout delivery drivers, has been extended until September.
In announcing the plan, Biden called on businesses to provide back hazard pay to frontline workers – who are disproportionately Black, Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander – in retail and grocery sectors. It was employers’ “duty,” the proposal stated, to compensate workers who had risked their lives to keep businesses running.
Biden still faces a challenging road ahead
The president’s administration has taken bold and swift action in its first 100 days, even winning praise from more left-leaning members of his own party. But the impact of Biden’s policies will only be felt in the coming months and years.
Biden still faces an uphill battle to get his Jobs Plan and Families Plan through Congress in the face of Republican opposition and with a razor-thin majority.
The workers who educate and take care of Google corporate employees’ children during the day are furious over being hit with additional transportation costs as the company requires them to return to in-person work.
Google has told its 148 San Francisco Bay Area childcare workers to return to the office starting Monday, despite the company’s shuttle services remaining shut down and many corporate employees being allowed to keep working remotely, according to a statement from the Alphabet Workers Union.
As a result, Google is forcing the childcare workers, who AWU said earn an average of $20 per hour, to find alternative ways to get to work. That could be costly, especially for the many workers who live far from Google’s campuses due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area, AWU said.
In response, the workers, with the support of AWU, launched a petition Friday asking Google to provide a $1,500 monthly transportation stipend until the company’s shuttle services resume. As of Friday evening, the petition had gathered more than 250 signatures from workers at Google and other subsidiaries of its parent company, Alphabet.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
“Transportation isn’t just a nice-to-have for us, it’s fundamental if we want to do our job,” Denise Belardes, a Google educator and AWU member, said in a statement to Insider via AWU.
“Options that cost money are not real options. We’re not the ones making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. We do not have the option to work from home as other Googlers. We need this stipend,” Belardes added.
The workers also pointed to recent Alphabet regulatory filings that said the company saved $268 million last quarter – which would amount to more than $1 billion annually – on “advertising and promotional as well as travel and entertainment expenses… primarily as a result of COVID-19” as employees work remotely.
“The corporation has been investing some of [its] record profits in the wellbeing of the return to office plan for some of its workforce, including creating specialized privacy robots, and new technology to help with the transition,” the petition said. “Clearly, Google can be an extraordinary problem solver, but is choosing not to solve this problem for its childcare workers.”
Google has been more responsive to its corporate employees, however.
In some ways, the April jobs report resembled an optical illusion, with people making differing observations from a dataset that didn’t fit into a clean narrative.
In this case, Democrats and Republicans came to opposite conclusions about the report and what it means for the way forward in healing an economy battered by the pandemic.
The Friday report showed the economy recovered 266,000 jobs, a smaller amount defying expectations of a massive job surge on the back of government stimulus dollars, increased vaccinations, and easing restrictions. Economists had forecasted at least 1 million regained jobs.
In response, the GOP is demanding to end parts of President Joe Biden’s stimulus and calling for the government to slam the brakes on its spending. Democrats instead urged the passage of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans, viewing the lackluster report as another pillar in their argument that more spending, in part on childcare, would accelerate the recovery.
It sets the stage between the parties for a multitrillion-dollar fight on infrastructure, jobs, and families that will take up much of the White House’s time over the next few months.
The president argued for patience with his economic agenda on Friday. He said “more help is needed” and mounted a robust defense of his $1.9 trillion stimulus, which provided $1,400 direct payments and a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit.
“When we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody, it was designed to help us over the course of a year – not 60 days – a year,” Biden said. “We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days, everything would be fine.”
He flatly rejected the argument from Republicans and business groups that federal jobless aid has been sidelining people from the workforce, saying that was “nothing measurable.”
“We’re still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs,” Biden said. “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”
“The evidence is clear that the economy demands urgent action, and Congress will not be deterred or delayed from delivering transformational investments,” she said in a statement.
Republicans had already lined up against Biden’s plans, criticizing the proposed tax hikes on large firms and wealthy Americans as a future anchor on the economy. They pounced on the report in a fresh sign of their hardening resistance.
The GOP swung at Biden’s handling of the economy, arguing that the jobless aid was disincentivizing people from searching for a new job.
“This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas,” Rep. Kevin Brady, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
He also contended that jobless aid was disincentivizing people from returning to work. The argument mirrored one made by the Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group which on Friday called for an end to the $300 federal unemployment benefit.
Many economists have long disputed that federal jobless aid has kept people from returning to work. Unemployment claims has steadily fallen over the past month. They tend to cite other factors like the lack of available childcare and school closures.
Those burdens have fallen more on women, causing 2 million women to leave the workforce in the past year. Still, experts say the US will regain its economic footing eventually, though the nation faces a rocky path ahead.
“We’re gonna see pockets of strength, pockets of weakness, areas of overheating, areas where it is uncool – it’s going to be complicated and messy,” Jason Furman, a former top economist to President Barack Obama, told Insider in an interview. “But I think hopefully all moving in the right direction.”