By: Chelsea Sheasley featuring IWF Policy Director Hadley Heath Manning

Muluwork Kenea closed Amen Family Child Care for almost two months during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns. The business she operates out of her home in Washington, D.C., survived through a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Although she doesn’t expect to close for good, she’s worried about her costs. She employs two other people to help operate a 24-hour facility, so she can care for children at night for parents working nontraditional hours. Prior to the pandemic, she purchased protective gloves for $42. Now they’re running $89 a box. A box of disinfectant spray has jumped from under $20 to $90. 

Seeking bipartisan common ground

The idea of federal universal child care remains a political nonstarter to most conservatives, says Hadley Heath Manning, director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C., because of concerns over cost, lack of quality, and government overreach.  

 “I think it’s tempting to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s a red flag with a lot of universal child care policies,” she says.

Instead, there might be more bipartisan willingness to address child care at state and local levels, she suggests, and to consider proposals such as increasing tax credits for families, and reforming the dependent care flexible spending account so parents can set aside more tax-free dollars to spend on child care.  

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