“No Zoom meetings today?” my six year old son, Brady, asks me. “No Zoom meetings buddy,” I say.
He wasn’t talking about my Zoom meetings for work- he was talking about his Zoom meetings. For first grade. First graders learning (or not learning) on Zoom is anything but normal. But we are living in anything but normal times.
That is probably why my reading list now includes articles with headlines like the following:
- Pandemic is a mental health crisis for parents
- In the COVID-19 economy, you can have a kid or a job, but not both
- Amid surge in COVID-19, companies and parents race for more child-care conflicts
- The hell that is remote learning
This is the gut punch.
Millions of families have lost loved ones - mothers, fathers, friends, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, grandparents. Yes, my four kids hate learning on Zoom and yes, it’s a struggle for our family, but we can keep their education going and we have a roof over our heads and food to eat. That is not true for so many families nationwide. Not even close to true.
New data out today from NPR, Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds the following:
- 61% of households with children face serious financial problems - especially Black and Latino households
- More than 4 in 10 households with children have used up all or most of their savings.
- 59% of households with children report serious problems caring for their children.
- More than 1 in 3 households report serious problems keeping education going, and the same amount report serious problems with their internet connection.
Let those numbers sink in a little bit. They should cause absolute outrage. Our nation is failing our families.
There is so much that needs to be done, at all levels of government, but let’s start with some of the most important changes that will help families and the economy begin to recover:
- Stabilize the child care system: A recent report by Child Care Aware calls the child care system inequitable, inaccessible, fragmented and underfunded. Child care providers are in danger of closing; those working at child care centers often do not have access to benefits like paid sick or family leave; and families struggle to find affordable care that is also safe. We cannot go back to work if we have no child care for our children - especially women who bear the brunt of the child care duties.
- Give everyone access to paid sick and family leave: This is especially important for front line workers who are literally putting their lives on the line for this country. If people are sick, they cannot take off so they have a tough choice to make: go to work sick or stay home and risk further financial disaster. As of May 2020, 14 states and 38 municipalities including Washington, DC have enacted paid sick leave laws and ordinances. There must be a nationwide policy.
- Support families’ basic needs so their children can learn: Kids cannot learn without a reliable internet connection or if they are stressed because their parents are out of work or because they are worried their house will be taken away. Broadband must be expanded to every community across the country. Unemployment insurance should be extended through the duration of the pandemic. And no family should be evicted from their home.
We cannot recover as a nation if we do not support our families. The health of our nation depends on the health of our families — all our families.