While we may have seen more female representation in politics this year, the gender gap is still ever-present in American society. As CNN reported in early January, 140,000 US jobs were cut in December with “women account[ing] for all the job losses,” according to the article. As women continue to see the worst effects of the pandemic, it’s clear that this gender gap will only worsen if policy isn’t implemented with women in mind.
Why are women disproportionately impacted by the pandemic?
The challenges of child care usually fall onto mothers, who “disproportionately take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities when their family cannot find or afford child care,” according to an article by the Center of American Progress. In addition, many women work in sectors that don’t allow them to work from home, forcing them to choose between taking care of their child and going to work. C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said that since those sectors are less likely to have flexibility, many women are forced to exit the workforce with child care providers and schools closed, which partly accounts for the number of female job losses last month.
Many child care providers were forced to close in the early months of the pandemic, but even those that are currently open are still facing financial issues. “56% of child care centers [are] saying they are losing money every day that they remain open,” according to a report by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This poses significant problems for many families who rely on these child-care services to look after their kids while they’re working.
How does Biden plan to solve the child care crisis?
In early January, Biden disclosed his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to the country, which is aimed to help the US financially recover from the pandemic. Under the plan, Biden discussed a $25 billion fund that would go towards helping child care providers. Specifically, this fund would help child care facilities that have closed and are trying to reopen as well as facilities that are still open but struggling financially.
In addition, Biden’s proposal would designate $15 billion towards the Child Care Development Block Grant, which “helps low-income families afford child care… [and is] aimed specifically at allowing women to reenter the workforce,” according to an article by US News.
Families would also see increased benefits regarding the child care tax credit under Biden’s plan, which would reimburse families with as much as half of their child care expenses for children under the age of 13. This makes families making under $125,000 eligible to receive $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children, and families making between $125,000 and $400,000 are eligible to receive partial reimbursement.
Implementing policy aimed specifically at helping child care facilities as well as families in need is the first step in closing the widening gender gap. While women have come a long way, the pandemic has definitely set us back in terms of equality. However, Biden’s plan to help the struggling economy may be the first step in mending that gap.