Supporting Families and Child Care Providers during the Pandemic with a Focus on Equity

Research BriefCOVID-19Aug 18 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 12 million children ages birth to 5 years were participating in some form of child care each week.1 Since March 2020, the pandemic has largely shut down, reduced, or disrupted the availability of child care across the nation. Restarting the child care industry,a while adhering to recommended guidance about health and safety precautions in the midst of the pandemic, is essential for helping parents get back to work and for preserving the child care workforce. Yet, some families seeking child care and some child care providers have been affected by the pandemic more than others. Addressing the unique needs of these families and providers requires that state and local policymakers and child care administrators develop an approach that is tailored to respond to these needs.


The purpose of this brief is to explore the specific challenges that families and child care providers are facing, especially those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and to offer potential strategies that state and local policymakers and administrators can pursue to address families’ and providers’ unique needs. For the purposes of this brief, the families and child care providers disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 include:

  • Approximately 10 million children ages birth to 6 years who live in low-income households2; this number may be increasing, given that approximately 56.5 million parents of children under age 183 have reported a loss in employment income since the start of the pandemic
  • The 1.1 million rural families with young children that face significant child care shortages4; and among the nation’s 55 million essential workers, those parents of young children who may be in need of child care5
  • The estimated 40 percent of child care providers (based on a national survey) who have reported that without any support, they will have to permanently close as a result of the pandemic6; these closures could result in the loss of an estimated 4.5 million child care slots nationally7