Parents across the country need support more than ever before as they balance caring for children and ensuring the financial stability of their families. Soaring unemployment and restricted operation of non-essential businesses has created unprecedented insecurity for families. Schools and childcare facilities remain closed in many parts of the country, adding to the burden for parents trying to re-enter the workforce or those trying to balance remote work and childcare.
Before COVID-19, families struggled to balance work and family responsibilities. Working parents rely on the support of existing systems within a city, like childcare, transportation, services that were closed down due to the pandemic.
As leaders grapple with timelines and blueprints to reopen non-essential businesses, this is the moment to rethink employment strategies and supports working parents need to excel in this new normal.
Prior to the outbreak, NLC undertook a scan assessing city-level workforce development efforts. Among many findings, the Working Parents, Thriving Cities brief identified a key opportunity for city leaders to focus on the specific needs of working parents. Because when parents achieve success at work – by gaining and maintaining employment as well as advancement – it can have lasting positive impacts for cities as well as stability for families and neighborhoods.
Local leaders can address the challenges of these uncertain times by advocating for what working parents need now and in the future.
Cities (often the largest employer in an area) can act as model employers by offering paid sick leave when employees are unable to work due to illness. Through procurement practices, municipal leaders can prioritize local businesses that offer paid sick leave or enforce paid sick leave where it is law.
Hold virtual conversations with parents as a constituency group to learn more about the barriers that parents face, as well as their challenges, and move towards solutions.
Reach out to partners such as community organizations, workforce investment boards and foundations to start conversations about working with parents to resolve the obstacles.
Cities can support organizations that provide services to parents who have lost their jobs or parents working in essential positions that require childcare.
Begin to work across city departments, such as Parks and Recreation, Health and Human Services, Housing and Neighborhood Development, to design data collection methods to help assess the needs of parents and develop appropriate programs and services.
When possible, consider stopping the collection of the fines and fees from residents to alleviate the financial strain on parents.
In times of trial, municipalities and residents together have proven their resilience. Parents have always been essential to their families and places of work but now more than ever, they need assistance and flexibility to balance the needs of their families and employment. Local leaders who serve on the front lines of communities can play a key role to support the workforce needs of parents through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
About the Author
Courtney Coffin is the Senior Associate for Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.