Tons of evidence shows that coronavirus job losses have disproportionately affected women, many of them mothers who have added homeschool teacher, entertainer, activities director, and chef to their daily roles. In fact, the problem has become so obvious that The 19th, a nonprofit newsroom focused on gender, politics, and policy, recently called it America’s first female recession.
Compounding the problem further is how it disproportionately affects Latina and Black mothers, who are more likely than white women to be their family’s main or only breadwinner. Some analysts warn a portion of these job losses—nearly 11 percent—may never even come back post-COVID, leaving mothers everywhere asking themselves what to do to support their families, both now and in the long term.
Where moms might find some relief
Fortunately, women who’ve been furloughed or laid off because of COVID may qualify for extended unemployment benefits. Depending on where you live, the CARES Act provides states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits—up to 13 extra weeks of benefits in states with high unemployment figures. Folks already receiving unemployment benefits can receive an additional $300 per week through March 14, 2021. In order to file for unemployment, follow this link and enter your state to be directed to your local unemployment office website.
You might also be able to get some housing relief and protections thanks to the most recent stimulus package, which allotted $25 billion to state and local governments to give low-income or unemployed community members assistance with their rent, mortgage, or utilities.. For rental assistance, visit here and see what programs are available in your area. For help with other home expenses, check out your local 211.
For parents who are working but struggling to juggle caregiving for children who are distance learning or other family members, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows parents to leave a job at full or partial pay for myriad hardships related to COVID, but those benefits expired in 2020. Congress is considering reinstating these benefits, which also allows employees employed for at least 30 days an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Contact your representatives if you’d like them to consider reinstating these benefits in the relief bill currently making its way through Congress.
Another very welcome, tangible benefit being discussed in the proposed stimulus bill is the child tax credit, also known as #CovidKidCash. If approved, it can provide up to $300 per month for each child—a benefit that most parents agree would be a complete game-changer for their family finances.
Federal employees are covered in the paid sick leave provision of the Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act. To see what types of benefits you’re eligible for in your state, the National Partnership For Women and Families has a handy tool that allows you to search your state’s available benefits directly.
What can moms do?
In addition to checking out government and local programs that offer assistance, there are a few other things you can do to limit the time spent out of the workforce, or at least lessen the impact.
- To stay top-of-mind at work—whether you’re doing “invisible” work from home or you’re just waiting to get hired back—it’s a good idea to stay in close communication with managers. Letting them know what you’re doing and emailing them about accomplishments, positive interactions with customers, etc. while working from home can show how valuable you are as an employee, which can bolster job security and could even lead to more hours if you’re part time. Just letting them know that you’re eager to get back to work if you’re furloughed is smart too, so you’ll be among the first they think of when they start rehiring—especially if you can update them with any online training or job-related experience you’ve been getting since being laid off. You can find some free classes online or take advantage of free trials of online training to brush up on skills, or even to move your career in a new direction.
- Platforms such as The Second Shift pair female workers with freelance or consulting projects that mainly require remote work. The site has seen a large increase in applicants since the pandemic began, but depending on your skillset, remote opportunities are expected to expand as employers realize that some workers don’t need to be on-site to perform their jobs well.
- Less about mentoring and finding a job and more about supporting each other and helping build connections, HeyMama connects like-minded working moms in similar fields as a way to help them continue expanding their network. Just having someone to talk to during this time may be a welcome relief for many moms right now. You can also find support in ParentsTogether’s Facebook group, Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic, for ideas, advice, and community from other parents.
- If you are job-hunting, experts say it’s best to search for what you really need right now: a job that’s flexible. Weed out the positions that will automatically not work with your life in the short term so you won’t have to decline an offer later or struggle to balance home and work.
- If a lack of childcare is the crux of your problem right now, there’s hope: The Biden administration has vowed to reopen schools within its first 100 days. His proposed stimulus plan includes nearly $130 billion to America’s K-12 schools, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its latest guidelines indicating it’s safe to reopen with controlled measures in place. As a result, school districts across the country are expected to continue reopening. The proposed plan also includes $40 billion for childcare, in part to help providers stay afloat, and another $15 billion to help low-income families afford child care.
Perhaps one silver lining from this crisis may be that employers can no longer ignore the childcare crisis that has plagued this country for years. For now, the best source of comfort is that the pandemic is not permanent, and vaccines are slowly making their way into the general public. If all goes well with the latter, life for many of us will be getting back to normal sometime this year—and not a day too soon as far as parents are concerned.