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Former Obama economist says Congress needs to "throw money" at childcare after airline bailout

COVID impact on child care could last decades
COVID impact on child care could last decades... 13:42

Barack Obama's former top economist says that Congress needs to "throw money" at the issue of childcare as lawmakers appear more inclined to rescue the airline industry instead of assisting children left without much-needed care and education amid COVID-19. 

Betsey Stevenson, professor at the University of Michigan's Gerald Ford School of Public Policy and former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan that as a result of childcare and K-12 facilities shuttering due to the coronavirus pandemic, kids are potentially losing 5-10% of their future income over the course of their lives

"I think that we all need to realize that this problem, this fact that we are basically abandoning our children for some period of time right now, not giving them the education they deserve, is going to be with us for the next 20 or 30 years," she said.

"We should be throwing money at the problem to try to help those kids and therefore help ourselves, our future selves as we as these kids grow up and are the ones who are running the economy."

Her comments come as data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the number of women working as child care providers dropped from about 972,600 in February to 622,300 in April. Although by June — the latest month reported — that number had risen to 725,200, it still represented a loss of nearly a quarter million jobs for women during the pandemic.

The nearly 20% drop in child care employment compares with about an 8% drop in the overall number of working Americans.

While lawmakers have yet to pass any meaningful relief for parents or childcare providers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, major airlines have have received nearly $60 billion in financial assistance under the House-passed CARES Act -- including American Airlines, Frontier, Hawaiin Holdings, SkyWest and Spirit Airlines -- all of whom plan to take out loans, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. 

It's not yet clear how much those loans would amount to, or the specific terms, but the need is clear as revenues plunge and major carriers have been notifying employees that furloughs are likely, with October 1 looming as an especially dark day for the industry.

The big airlines weeks ago warned they'd have to furlough more than 80,000 pilots, flight attendants and other airline workers once  $25 billion in government aid runs out at the end of September. The money, which covered wages, was first granted in March as part of a larger economic aid package and was intended to help carriers survive the pandemic until the public health crisis ended.

Conversely, the childcare industry continues to suffer crippling losses since the outbreak began in late February. Since that time, more than 1 out of 5 of the nearly 1 million people employed as childcare providers have lost their jobs. Experts project coronavirus could lead to the permanent loss of nearly 4.5 million child-care slots in daycares if Congress doesn't take action beyond the $3.5 billion in aid passed by the House in April.

"So why does the government step in and hand 50 billion dollars over to airlines? They do it because they think a modern economy will struggle to reopen and get going again if our airlines go bankrupt. What apparently very few people thought was a modern economy will struggle to get going again if we have bankrupt all our child care centers," Stevenson argued. 

"We need to be putting the same kind of priority, understanding that child care is an infrastructure."

As college campuses and high schools begin to reopen and welcome students back across the country, Stevenson argues it's just not as simple as opening up every childcare facility in the country. 

"We need money from the federal government to be able to improve the infrastructure. We also need money from the federal government to help with flexibility," she said, adding "I think that's just not where our government is. We don't see federal, state and local governments working with one single goal in mind, which is to minimize the damage to families and kids. That's what they'd have to do. And we just haven't seen any of that."

Meanwhile, following a two-week back-to-back blitz of both candidates making their appeal to their party, during which inaccurate claims made by the current president attacked his predecessor for leaving him with a decimated economy, Stevenson said Mr. Trump's repeated attacks against the Obama administration's economic policies hearken back to a 2008 Obama. 

"President Obama certainly walked into a decimated economy in 2009. The country was losing 800,000 jobs a month. This was looked like really the worst recession we had ever seen," Stevenson countered. 

Mr. Trump has over the last four years in office pitched wildly off-base claims about economic growth as as his White House frequently uses selective statistics to build a case that the economy is doing much better than when Barack Obama was in office.  

"Currently, when the jobs reports come out and they tell us that, yes, some of these temporary layoffs are being recalled, [Trump] celebrated as the greatest job growth we've ever had. It's not job growth. It's that some people are being temporary, recalled to jobs they already had. What's the plan to build new jobs until that's when you can cycle back and say, well, what are the candidates have?"

Stevenson agreed, however, that no matter who wins on election day, the issue of a beleaguered economy and child care crisis will still exist on November 4th. 

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