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Reflecting on 2 Years of COVID-19 and How it Has Shaped Our Economy

March Spotlight on labor, childcare, and how the pandemic has shaped our economy

Authors: Melonie Tharpe, Director Portfolio Initiatives

Two years. That is how long we have felt the uneasy slow burn, and often crushing weight of this pandemic. Two years ago, when we all learned the phrase “two weeks to flatten the curve” and tried our best to stay physically separate from as many people as our jobs and living conditions allowed, I joined the staff at Common Future.

To borrow from Rebecca Solnit, hope in the darkness and turmoil, is an embrace of the unknown. I see that hope in our network, and their tireless efforts to keep building, keep moving, keep their communities alive, no matter what is thrown before them. In those turbulent and dark days of mid March and April 2020, we saw our entrepreneur support groups shift their offerings to help their small businesses navigate grants and loans and shutdowns, all without additional operating support. We saw mutual aid and direct relief groups spring to action as low-wage, gig and other marginalized workers lost their jobs and their wages. We cried and raged as more Black lives were senselessly taken, and felt pangs of hope as people donned masks and took to the streets in towns big and small to call for change. While much sorrow remains, and new sorrows are added, people’s capacity for hope hasn’t faded.

This past year — or year 2 of the pandemic — has shown us just how much has radically changed forever, and where those glimmers of hope might be, and also where the deep eddies of inequality still persist and even fester in this turmoil. The “big churn” or “great resignation” is just one example. Support for unions is the highest it’s been since 1965. However, even with many households and workers finding their voice, and enough financial footing to demand change or leave jobs that don’t value them, many more workers and households are struggling to keep going and make ends meet. In 2021, the federal government temporarily implemented a child tax credit that cut child poverty by 40%, only to have that much-needed support ended due to politics. What’s more, Black and Latino workers aren’t finding new or better jobs at the same rate as their white counterparts, exacerbating already deep inequalities. Women, even if they want to or need to, aren’t returning to the workforce as quickly as men.

When schools went virtual, and daycares closed, our society took it as expected that women would play a major role in keeping kids focused on their virtual teachers while juggling or quitting their jobs. And for the majority Black and Latino workers for whom virtual work was not an option, they were forced to make hard decisions about competing needs like being home with children, keeping a job, and being daily exposed to a deadly pandemic.

In this newsletter, you will read about many of the above issues, including the inherent issues with the childcare economy and how we must fix it, and the undue burdens placed on immigrant and gig workers.

We must continue to hope while being critical of what isn’t working for our communities and digging in to build an economy and a world that offers better and meets the crises and opportunities that lay before us.

With love,



Continued Reading

The Childcare Economy

Labor and the Economy



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