The big factor holding back the U.S. economic recovery: Child care

While big companies might be able to provide white-collar workers with generous work-at-home flexibility, blue-collar and “essential” industries, from grocery store, fast-food and sanitation workers to nurses, often can’t. Low-income and working-class women — who have already been hardest hit by the crisis — as well as smaller businesses are disproportionately impacted by the child-care crunch. Some who would turn to grandparents for extra help now see that option as less safe and other possibilities can be unaffordable.

If schools and child-care centers remain closed, German researchers estimate 8.4 percent of economic activity in Europe won’t happen, a substantial loss that could hit the United States similarly, researchers say.

Eliza Navarro was forced to quit her nursing job at a hospital in San Benito, Tex., in April when she couldn’t find child care for her two children. It’s been a devastating financial blow for the single mom, but she was forced to choose between her job and her kids.

“I had no choice but to quit. I want to work, but because of everything that happened with schools and day cares closed, I wasn’t able to,” said Navarro, 33. “I’ve been working since I was 17. I love working. I love my patients and my job.”

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