Thousands of women are feeling the impact of unemployment benefits expiring over the weekend. State leaders say it’s tied to the fact that many are moms, also taking on the responsibility of raising children.
The latest data from the state Department of Labor shows approximately 12,000 more women than men have filed for unemployment.
Now local parents and child advocates say the loss of federal unemployment benefits, which put $300 supplemental dollars into the hands of all filers, is highlighting the need for bolstered child care services.
Starquasia Davis has two little girls on the move. Her 6-year-old and 9-month-old daughters keep her busy, tooling around the apartment in a hot pink toy convertible.
The Hartford mom is on-the-go herself, taking on an overnight shift to support her young daughters.
“I work from 6:30 p.m. all the way until 5 in the morning,” Davis said.
She was on unemployment until last month.
“I didn’t want to rush into work, because she was a newborn baby,” Davis said of her youngest.
After she learned that federal Cares Act benefits would expire this week, the mother of two returned to her overnight job at Amazon.
“It was really hard, because no jobs are hiring for first shift,” she said.
The irregular hours make child care crucial.
“If I can’t find day care, I can’t work. I can’t pay for my bills. I can’t provide for my kids,” Davis said.
The need for an extra set of hands is something parents Christian Colon and Jackeline Arroyo can relate to. Arroyo also had a new baby last year, but now she is hitting a wall in her search for work.
“She started looking for jobs maybe one month ago, and she went to interviews and everything,” Colon said.
The Hartford mother has applied for the state’s Care 4 Kids program to help supplement the cost of sending her two kids to child care. However, since she is not currently working, she was denied the aid.
“We never understand why. And (it does) not make sense because she needs the day care to start working,” Colon said.
Juggling kids and career demands brought both moms to Irma Santome. She runs JCK Day Care in Hartford. It is a rare program that operates 24-hours.
“It is difficult for parents to look for work and care for children,” Santome said.
She adds that many of her clients find it tough to even job hunt or make it to interviews without the help of childcare.
“They put great responsibility on us,” she said.
This is why Santome wants to see more funding for programs like hers.
The pandemic forced more than 200 day care centers and licensed child care providers in the state to close, according to Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.
“Children who don’t have child care, and as a result, parents, primarily moms, are not in the workforce,” Merrill Gay, Executive Director said. Gay said right now, staffing is the major problem.
“There are childcare centers that have a waiting list and an empty classroom, but no staff to run it,” Gay said.
On the bright side, he says many child care centers are reopening thanks to PPE loans, Small Business Disaster grants, and stabilization grants under the American Rescue Plan. Although cost remains an obstacle for many parents, the state is now expanding eligibility for relief.
“The Care 4 Kids program got an influx of federal funds, and it’s a little bit more generous right now,” Gay said. “It will go up to 60% of the state median income instead of 50%. So that makes a lot of people who weren’t eligible in the past eligible now.”
Colon and Arroyo hope that may impact them and their two young daughters.
“I have a good job, but we need help with the day care because it’s too much for us,” Colon said.
Davis wants to see more options to help working parents achieve the delicate balance between motherhood and making ends meet.
“Twenty-four-hour day cares, it would be really great to have more of those,” she said. “I’m literally out here in Connecticut by myself. No family. It’s just me and my kids, you understand what I’m saying. So without that? It would be really hard.”