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Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

Photo: Nicole Leeper on Unsplash.
Learn why many people say child care benefits are essential to a strong economy.

When Suzanne and four other women running Rhode Island businesses talked to Vice President Kamala Harris recently, the subject of child care came up a lot. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who was also present, emphasized that to reboot the economy, we need the more than 2 million women Covid forced out of work to come back — and they can’t come back if they have no child care. Child care is infrastructure just like bridges and roads.

Now imagine how hard it has always been for people who lose benefits like child care support when their earnings inch even a tiny bit over the poverty level.

At the Washington Post, Zoe Sullivan describes the ongoing challenges.

“In October 2016, Georgia Allen got a phone call that changed her life. At the time, Allen, 35, was a single parent living in Madison, Wis., with a 3-year-old daughter. To cover her $925 monthly rent and keep her daughter in day care, Allen worked two jobs at a hospital, answered calls part time at a domestic violence center and held down a side hustle caring for elderly people and children. Even with a $300 state subsidy, Allen had to pay another $1,200 out of pocket for her daughter’s care.

“The caller told Allen that she had reached what she calls the ‘benefits cliff’: She was earning too much to qualify for the health- and child-care benefits she was receiving. Yet without those benefits, Allen couldn’t make ends meet.

‘I get emotional thinking about it, because I was just so frustrated,’ Allen said. ‘I finally get to 16, 17 dollars an hour, and the journey was so hard because I couldn’t go to school and have child care. I had to choose one or the other.’ …

“Although Allen adjusted her work schedule after that October call so she wouldn’t lose her benefits, she ultimately lost her job. …

“ ‘It took me several months of a lot of prayer,’ Allen said about finding her new direction in that period. One day, in tears, Allen had a revelation that the different jobs she’d held were all training for running a business. With families like her own in mind, Allen envisioned a cooperative network of home-based child-care sites that would not only ensure that low-wage-earning parents could secure quality child care but also provide living-wage employment to caregivers.

“The challenges and disparities Allen faced existed long before the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis, however, has exacerbated these challenges for many families and underscored the argument that caring for children is an essential service. Without child care, front-line workers, whether supermarket employees or doctors, can’t go to work. …

“In Allen’s home state of Wisconsin, only child-care programs that participate in the state’s ranking system can accept the subsidies low-income families receive. But on the flip side, those subsidies often don’t fully cover the cost of care at high-quality facilities. …

“ ‘If economic stability isn’t happening, and people are choosing alternative child-care options because child care is expensive or not accessible, that will affect the educational journey that our children will face. So, I started to see how it was all connected,’ [Allen] said. …

“Julia Henly, a University of Chicago social work professor, framed the challenge: ‘Child care needs to be super flexible and variable around parents’ work schedules, but child-care workers themselves are low-wage workers who, you know, we kind of are expecting them to carry the caregiving needs of other low-wage workers, and I just think that is not really sustainable.’

“These are the conundrums Allen aims to solve. In mid-2019, she met someone who took seriously her two-pronged approach of simultaneously addressing both employment and child-care needs. That was Abha Thakkar, executive director of a community development organization, the Northside Planning Council, which focuses on that sparsely served area of Madison.

“Now the NPC is helping Allen and her team build a round-the-clock, in-home child-care network with support on a business proposal, and by facilitating connections to grant-makers and lenders. The network’s home-based care sites will be supported by a central location that, along with offering care, will also train providers, prepare meals for the in-home satellites, and handle the back-office tasks.

“One of the central elements of Allen’s plan is that families who participate in this child-care network won’t face the sort of spike in costs that threatened to derail her after that 2016 phone call.

“ ‘This platform, for the parents, when they get to that benefits cliff, there is an option,’ Allen said. She points to a plan for a sliding pay scale and case management to help parents navigate the transition away from public benefits as they grow their incomes. …

“ ‘This model is going to be a hybrid,’ Thakkar says. ‘You don’t want a worker-owned co-op to be a nonprofit [because] the whole point is wealth-building,’ she said. As a result, the Northside Planning Council will serve as a nonprofit fiscal sponsor while the co-op develops its business.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Diman Regional Vo-Tech High School
This school offers practical solutions to challenges facing Fall River and Southeast Massachusetts while providing students with lifetime skills.

I love vocational schools that give students the satisfaction of both learning new skills and applying them to community service. Where I live, for example, there’s a nonprofit called Second Chance Cars that taps the auto-mechanic programs of two vo-tech schools to reburbish vehicles that are then resold to ex-service members and approved ex-offenders at a subsidized price.

And in Fall River, Mass., the regional school tackles serious work like building homes and improving city infrastructure. In this story, students from several disciplines worked on a flood-control sluice gate that the city needed repaired.

Jo C. Goode reports at Fall River’s Herald News, “A group of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School students saw the fruits of their labors materialized in a dramatic way [in July] when a project they had worked on for a year — replacing vital sluice gates that help control the flow of water from the Quequechan River — became an integral part of the city’s infrastructure for decades to come.

“Students, their educators and staff from the city’s water and sewer departments met at what is called #7 Iron Works, located behind a group of mills on Pocasset Street where the river flows underground to a sluice that directs the water to the Battleship Cove area and Firestone Mill Pond.

“They watched as a crane lifted large gates into a black metal sleeve, where crews will open and close the gates with a giant iron wrench to control the flow of water from South Watuppa Pond. …

“Within about 15 minutes after the dam was opened at South Watuppa, a torrent flowed from the underground Quequechan River through as workers tweaked the placement of the new sluice gates.

” ‘About a year ago we knew the sluice gate needed to be repaired,” said Paul Ferland, the city’s director of community utilities, who said the pre-existing gates were easily over 100 years old. ‘We’ve worked with Diman on other projects in the past … Their work is top notch.’

“Working with the vocational-technical high school also saved the city money, said Ferland. If the department hired an outside firm, the project could have easily cost the city $60,000.

“Maria Torres, assistant principal for technical affairs at Diman, said … ‘We’re always looking to partner with the community, number one. And number two, we always want to take on projects that challenge our students, so that was the biggest thing.’ …

“Torres said the project incorporated a range of the school’s areas of studies from drafting, machine tool technology, carpentry, welding and metal works.

The dental assisting program even pitched in and took impressions of the old gate gears.

“Machine tool technology student Evan Thro, who recently graduated from Diman and is attending University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a mechanical engineering student, [said,] ‘There was constant communication,’ said Thro. ‘It was measure twice and cut once, because you only had one shot and make sure you do it right.’ ”

Read more at the Herald News, here.

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You may get a kick out of this BBC story on the intersection of art and engineering.

“Artist Daan Roosegaarde has teamed up with Hans Goris, a manager at a Dutch civil engineering firm with hopes of reinventing highways all over the world.

“They are working on designs that will change with the weather — telling drivers if it’s icy or wet by using high-tech paint that lights up in different temperatures.

“Another of their ideas is to create a road that charges up electric cars as they drive along it.

“Daan Roosegarde said: ‘I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design of cars but somehow the roads … are still stuck in the Middle Ages.’

“In the past he has designed a dance floor with built-in disco lights powered by dancers’ foot movements.

“They plan to trial their specially designed glow-in-the-dark paint on a strip of road at Brabant, which is near the Dutch border with Belgium, later this year.”

Read more.

Photo of a glow-in-the-dark road: Roosegarde

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