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As kids are sent home for COVID quarantine, working moms of color disproportionately affected

As the delta variant spreads, many working parents are concerned about childcare options as more kids are sent home from in-person learning to quarantine.

TAMPA, Fla. — We've been at it for more than a year. We've been monitoring news from the Centers for Disease Control, doctors, taking every health precaution we can and keeping tabs on COVID-19 case numbers in our area.

It's been tiring. Now, many parents are growing increasingly concerned as the delta variant is causing more and more cases across Tampa Bay. Data shows the variant is affecting more children who are unable to get vaccinated, worrying many parents as kids are back to school in the classroom.

Tampa Bay area school districts have outlined COVID-19 safety protocols for when a staff member or student tests positive and those guidelines often include quarantining at home. The possibility of getting sent home for days at a time is worrisome for parents as they grapple with options for childcare.

"A mother is ten times more likely to stay home with a sick child than a father is," said Mara Bolis, the Associate Director of Women's Economic Rights, Gender Justice & Inclusion Hub for Oxfam America. Data shows that women and mothers, particularly women of color, have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men.

Often, working moms of color are dealing with the greater impacts of the pandemic.

"They are concentrated in sectors most affected in terms of hospitality, childcare and services so they're very vulnerable and concentrated in low wage work that doesn't benefit from policy and benefits that keep them safe," explained Bolis. 

So when women working in industries with fewer benefits like paid time off or sick leave are tasked with the responsibility of staying home to care for their sick children, they risk losing their jobs. 

The solution, according to Bolis, is more legislative support for working families, "Women should not have to make the choice of going to work or keeping their family safe. We need paid family medical leave and support for the childcare sector to make it safe and affordable."

The budget reconciliation bill moving through Congress includes some measures that would support working families, like including millions of dollars to create universal Pre-K programs, making childcare for working families affordable and increasing wages for childcare workers to support the industry.

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