This year, schools had to make difficult decisions — do we risk bringing kids back into schools or do we hold classes virtually? Although most everyone agrees that in-person schooling provides a better education, many schools are, or may be forced to, conduct classes online as COVID-19 remains a health issue. With parents working either outside the home or working virtually from home, that means a truly uncertain school year.
The financial impact of COVID-19 on working parents with small children
Across the country, with childcare facilities closed or closing due to COVID-19, working parents are having to deal with childcare on their own. For parents who must work outside the home, such as those in healthcare, retail or restaurants, the loss of childcare may mean not being able to go to work at all or having to reduce hours, thus losing much-needed income. For parents who can work remotely, it means having to figure out how to work productively with children at home.
What if you need childcare?
With half of working parents now working remotely and 75% of them with children at home during work hours,1 many are looking for alternatives to traditional day care. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Get together with friends or neighbors in the same situation. If you know others who need childcare during working hours, you may be able to team up, each pick a day of the week to take care of everyone’s kids, leaving you with the rest of the week to work.
- Hire a nanny. Make sure the person you hire is staying safe when they’re not with you, so you can feel comfortable welcoming them into your home. College or high school students who are going to school online and living at home may be a possibility, depending on their lifestyle.
- Structure a more flexible schedule. If you have paid leave through your employers, you may have already had to dip into it. Work with your employer to see what options are available to you and how you might be able to structure your work so you can take care of your children and do your job too. For example, you may be able to work while the kids are napping, after they’ve gone to bed at night, or after your spouse or partner has returned home, if they work outside the home.
What if your K-12 kids need help with online school?
In the spring, when COVID-19 shut us all down, parents found out just how hard online schooling can be for kids of all ages. Parents working at home might not have the time or skills to help. Here are a few options others have tried:
- Hire a group tutor. Get together with other parents and hire someone to help your kids navigate online classes, complete assigned homework and do extra work if you think it will help your children get ahead.
- Look for facilities that can help. Some gyms are offering day care-type activities, with a worker there to help with online classes and homework and to give the kids active breaks during the day to help keep them focused.
- Set up a “classroom” and schedule for your kids at home. Sometimes, children just need the structure associated with school to be successful. You can help by eliminating distractions, setting up a quiet place for them to work and participate in class online, and schedule breaks to give them time to be active or just relax.
How is the pandemic affecting college students?
Working parents and young children are not the only ones struggling with the fallout of COVID-19. With millions of Americans out of work, 56% of college students say they can no longer afford their tuition payments and about half of all undergrads say they’ll need to figure out a new way to pay for school because COVID-19 has impacted their financial standing. Already, nearly 40% of parents have tapped into their child’s college fund to help cover expenses and dramatic market swings have taken a toll on college saving accounts.2
With a college degree essential for many jobs in the economy today, what can students do to afford tuition?
- Apply for aid. Fill out the FAFSA and let your college know if there has been a change in your family’s circumstances. Schools will often provide more aid if the parents’ financial situation has declined.
- Look for scholarships. There are still plenty of scholarships available to college students. All you need to do is apply to get a shot at some extra money.
- Get an emergency grant. Some colleges are providing emergency grants, funded through the CARES Act, to help with students impacted by COVID-19.
- Negotiate with colleges for more help or lower fees. While not all colleges and universities will lower fees or provide more help, it never hurts to ask.
- Get free stuff. There are lots of ways to save money as a college student, from discounts on things like Amazon Prime and Microsoft Office, to free memberships to professional organizations, bank accounts and public transportation.
- Go somewhere else. If you’re going to be online anyway, why not apply to an all-online college? Tuition rates are considerably lower in cost and those colleges are set up specifically to support online programs.