Care work in the time of COVID-19

Supporting the workers who care for us all
Published: 04.13.2020 Updated: 04.17.2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many social and occupational fault lines in the U.S. Non-essential workers are telecommuting where possible and practicing social distancing, while essential employees in healthcare, child care and elder care and other sectors are at the very forefront of addressing this public health crisis.

New diversitydatakids.org research shows that paid care workers had limited supports to meet their child and elder care needs even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, nearly all forms of paid care are prohibitively expensive for paid care workers, and particularly so for those who need elder care. But while big businesses are getting substantial stimulus packages to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, the same is not true for care workers. The $5.3 billion allocated to supporting programs for children and families (which includes child care centers) is just a fraction of the $58 billion the airline industry will receive in total.

Although paid care workers have always been essential to meet fundamental economic and societal needs, their important work is suddenly more visible than ever. With schools closed and the elderly particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, both essential and non-essential employees are juggling their own care needs, the safety of their families and their need to bring home a paycheck. Paid care workers who themselves have families are on the frontlines of this struggle, caring both on and off the clock.

Child care and elder care work is poorly paid at the best of times; during the time of COVID-19 it is both poorly paid and dangerous. The CARES Act will help, but more must be done to ensure that all care workers, and especially low-income workers, can care for their own families while they care for ours.

Nearly all forms of paid care are prohibitively expensive for paid care workers.... But while big businesses are getting substantial stimulus packages to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, the same is not true for care workers.
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photo of Rebecca Huber ddk staff member
Rebecca Huber
Research Associate
Pamela Joshi
Pamela Joshi
Policy Research Director
Nomi Sofer
Nomi Sofer
Senior Communications Strategist