On Thursday, the Prime Minister of Australia announced that the country would be providing free childcare nationally for six months, in an attempt to keep businesses up and running during the covid-19 pandemic. This subsidy is just the latest in a number of support packages that the country has implemented to “hibernate” the national economy by providing support to industries ranging from airlines to shopping malls.
CNN reports that Australia’s free childcare plan will support approximately one million families across the country, and will also provide general assistance to the early childhood education and care sector. The government plans to keep 13,000 childcare centers open by paying them $1.6 billion AUD ($974 million USD) over the next three months.
“These services are vital for so many parents so they can provide for their family, and children need as much familiarity and continuity as we can help provide at this unsettling time,” said [Prime Minister Scott Morrison].
“Priority will be given to working parents, vulnerable and disadvantaged children that need early education more than ever and parents with pre-existing enrollments,” he added.
Australia announced “unprecedented restrictions on public movement” to stop the spread of the virus—and those efforts appear to be working.
Australia has reported around 5,200 infections and 25 deaths, with daily increases in new cases dropping to single digits from between 25 percent and 30 percent two weeks ago.
“The curve is beginning to flatten,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said. “It isn’t sustained yet, it hasn’t been consolidated, but those early, important signs are absolutely critical.”
Look at that! Investing over a billion dollars to provide free childcare for its citizens in a moment of crisis is a decision that will likely help to decrease the burden that this pandemic is placing on families—specifically low-income families. Many of these workers who live paycheck to paycheck have been stuck deciding whether to stay at home and care for their kids (often with the risk of losing their jobs) or whether to go to work and leave their kids home alone. Providing this service free of charge will help to support medical professionals, grocery store employees, and other essential employees who are risking infection every day to do their jobs.
Of course, it’d be even better if that free childcare came along with canceled rent. Sigh. A girl can but dream.