That means many out-of-work parents could have a tougher time remaining on a special unemployment program designed to help those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Typically, the unemployed can’t turn down jobs and continue to collect benefits. Many states are urging employers to report workers who refuse to return — especially since some may be reluctant to go back because they are making more on unemployment thanks to a temporary $600 federal boost in payments.
“There is no requirement for an exhaustive search of all day cares and camps to enable eligibility,” according to a Department of Labor spokesperson.
States, however, may interpret the department’s guidance on child care availability differently. Some take a harder line.
Texas, for instance, requires residents receiving unemployment to be available for work, and that includes having child care, said a spokesman for the Texas Workforce Commission, which has been pushing people to accept offers.
“Refusals of work due to lack of child care will be reviewed and a decision issued based upon the facts in the case,” the spokesman said.
But Oregon has a broader definition of access to child care. The jobless there are considered eligible for pandemic benefits if their facility is closed, limited in capacity or requires them to sign up for full-time care when they only need it on a part-time basis.
Going back to day care isn’t always easy
Bonnie Stone, who lost her catering and waitress jobs in March, wants to send her 3-year-old daughter back to her day care program now that it’s reopened. However, she and her partner can’t afford it on only his earnings as a construction worker.
The Cedar Park, Texas, resident has received about $2,200 in unemployment benefits so far but is expecting more payments to arrive soon.
Meanwhile, Stone said can’t find positions that would pay her enough to cover her daughter’s day-care costs. She hopes she’ll be able to remain on unemployment until she does.
“I look for work and I get one day out of the month,” said Stone, 42, who recently staffed her first catering job since March. “There just isn’t anything that fits yet for us financially.”
Many parts of the nation had a shortage in child care even before the pandemic struck and forced many centers to shutter temporarily, said Isabel Soto, labor market policy data analyst at the American Action Forum, a right-leaning think tank. Some facilities may not be able to reopen after losing months of revenue, while others may limit class sizes and charge more to cover additional safety measures.
After being furloughed in April, Jill Orkisz turned down an offer to return to her job as a fitness studio manager last month because she had no one to care for her two sons, ages 9 and 4. Her husband works in construction in another state.
Her older son, Luke, is now in camp a few hours a day, but she doesn’t send him when it rains because she doesn’t want him inside with other children and staffers. She can’t afford to also send her younger son, Tucker, on her husband’s salary and her unemployment benefits.
Orkisz, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, hopes to shift to marketing and find a job that allows her to work from home. That way she won’t have to worry about who will care for her sons.