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Without access to childcare, mothers struggle to rejoin labor force

Women suffer more job losses during crisis

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Stephanie Trujillo, of Westchester, was working as a restaurant manager in Miami-Dade County when the coronavirus pandemic forced authorities to lock down most businesses.

Trujillo, a single mother, said she was forced to apply for unemployment insurance benefits last month. As of Monday afternoon, she hadn’t received a response on any of her applications for government aid.

“I called at 7:58 because they open at 8 a.m. I still wasn’t able to get through ... and three weeks of waiting for food stamps,” Trujillo said.

April’s unemployment data prompted The New York Times to recently refer to the economic crisis during the coronavirus pandemic as a “Shecession.” About 60% of the 20.5 million jobs eliminated belonged to women. This resulted in a record-high unemployment rate of 14.7%, but the jobless rate for women rose to 15.5%.

“I did get a phone call about a job opportunity but I am not able to take that because I have no one to watch him,” Trujillo said, adding that hiring a full-time nanny was out of reach even when she was working full time.

Trujillo is not alone. Diane Swonk, the chief economist of Grant Thornton, recently said women all over the country are facing a big barrier to workplace re-entry.

“That is one of the most important issues out there,” Swonk said. “If we can’t reopen the schools and you don’t have summer programs, you have a lot of workers that don’t have a choice. They can’t rejoin the labor force.”

Rep. Vance Aloupis, who is the chief executive officer of The Children’s Movement of Florida, a Miami-based nonprofit organization, agrees with Swonk. He said about 70% of child care centers are closed, and a recent survey showed many of the centers will not survive.

“Our child care industry was already in crisis before the pandemic, and we now face a potential disaster if child care is not prioritized,” Aloupis said.

The Children’s Trust, a social services organization established by voter referendum in Miami-Dade County with the help of The Children’s Movement of Florida, supports after-school and summer camp programs for families in need.

“The Children’s Trust is looking to purchase PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for summer providers to support the re-opening of our community as we value and understand the need for some families to return to work,” said Sandra Camacho, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Camacho said the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe is tasked with helping families to find childcare services. There is a great need. Chelsea Wilkerson, the chief executive officer of the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida, said the economic impact has disproportionately hurt women of lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

And while Florida’s unemployment claims office continues to be overwhelmed, Trujillo is hopeful that the government assistance and access to childcare services will help her to get back on her feet soon.

“I have a career and I want to get back to my career and still feel like my son is safe,” Trujillo said.

ON THE WEB: For the first time in decades, this Recession is a ‘Shecession’


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