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Economy

With U.S. Child Care in Crisis, Businesses Must Step Up

When it comes to paying into a functional child-care system, businesses are freeloaders. It’s time for that to change.

Teacher Shanikia Johnson helps 3-year-old Magjor Jones clean up a puzzle at Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, in 2021.

Teacher Shanikia Johnson helps 3-year-old Magjor Jones clean up a puzzle at Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, in 2021.

Photographer: Matt Roth/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The knees of the U.S. child-care system have buckled.

Already weak before the pandemic, the sector’s staffing remains 11% below its prior levels and shows no hint of recovery. New omicron-driven shortages have caused thousands of temporary closures, dealing a fresh blow to exhausted and anxious working parents trying to navigate the costly patchwork of centers and home-based providers that constitutes the U.S. approach to early childhood care. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently acknowledged the child care crisis is “clearly weighing on” labor force participation, particularly among mothers.