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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Parents looking to return to the job market may find child care options have gotten pricier — and that's if they can enroll their kids at all.

Why it matters: The fate of the recovery partially relies on the return of parents who left the workforce to care for their children.

  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers on Tuesday the lack of participation by caretakers is holding back the labor market.

What to watch: An index that tracks day care and preschool costs has shot well above its pre-pandemic level. Its biggest monthly increase in two years happened last month.

  • Child care costs have been growing twice as fast as inflation since 2000, says Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.

Flashback: At the onset of the pandemic, massive under-enrollment helped push 1 in 10 child care centers to close permanently, Malik says.

What's happening: Higher costs for things like gloves for changing diapers and food for meals are getting passed on to families.

  • "Right now we have no choice but to go back to the paying parents [with price hikes] — those that don't qualify for any subsidy or child care assistance," says the National Childcare Association's Cindy Lehnhoff.

Another cost stems from the issue plaguing other low-wage industries: worker shortages. Child care centers are upping pay — by an average of $2 per hour — to lure back the exodus of child care workers, says Lehnhoff.

  • Staff shortages mean fewer slots for children, making a pre-pandemic problem even worse.

What to watch: The child care industry got over $50 billion in pandemic-era relief — with the biggest chunk set to be disbursed by states in coming months.

Go deeper

Sep 21, 2021 - Health

Democrats' case for prioritizing health care policies

Expand chart
Reproduced from Hart Research Associates; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care advocates are making the case that the pieces of Democrats' legislative agenda that lower health care costs and expand coverage are the most popular with voters — and should thus be prioritized.

Why it matters: Democrats are trying to figure out what topline spending number they have to work with for their reconciliation package. The lower that number goes, the more the party will have to cut from the package.

Tech firms' nightmare: Vanishing green cards

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Thousands of green cards are about to go to waste, leaving Google, Microsoft and other tech companies fuming — and pushing the Biden administration to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Why it matters: Tech workers have waited years for green cards that will grant them permanent legal status in the U.S. — but because of pandemic-related processing delays, they will have to wait even longer.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
50 mins ago - Energy & Environment

White House moves against "super-pollutant" in climate fight

Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The EPA is finalizing rules today that cut powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration, part of a wider new White House strategy to deter these "super-pollutants" and boost manufacturing of substitutes.

Why it matters: The EPA regulation is the U.S. part of a planned global phase-down of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons. The global phaseout can prevent up 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100, the White House said.

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