About 50 national personalities signed on to a recent ad campaign urging President Joe Biden to reconsider the design of his $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package. They justifiably want him and Congress to take into account the fact that 2 million mothers have been removed from the workforce through no fault of their own during the pandemic.

The simple fact is, someone had to stay home with the kids when they couldn’t go to school, and women appear to have drawn the short straw in far greater proportions than men.

Many of the job-displaced women had promising careers. Their upward trajectory has been interrupted while their male counterparts stayed on track. Others are single moms who were struggling to get by before the pandemic with near-minimum wage jobs. The choice of leaving the kids untended so the mother can go to work is a choice no one should have to make.

The Marshall Plan for Moms campaign isn’t asking for a handout. Campaigners — doctors, academics, chief executives, authors and prominent actors — are asking for America’s moms to receive compensation in recognition that someone had to take care of America’s kids when the pandemic turned everyone’s life upside down.

“Motherhood isn’t a favor and it’s not a luxury. It’s a job,” the campaign stated in a full-page New York Times ad.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that women have left the workforce at four times the rate of men since the pandemic began and nearly half of all U.S. school districts switched to remote learning last year, forcing kids to attend classes from home.

“This pandemic has absolutely decimated the careers of working moms across the country,” said a statement by Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the organization sponsoring the effort.

“This is not an isolated incident — it is a national crisis, and we can start to address it within the first 100 days of this administration.”

The Biden rescue package shows signs of being rushed. Republicans are correct to challenge it for lacking greater fiscal scrutiny, but also because it proposes another massive payout to a slice of gainfully employed, solidly middle-class Americans who simply do not need this money.

Meanwhile, lots of truly struggling people need an extra boost. Working moms deserve the priority consideration that recognizes the extraordinary, pandemic-related child care expenses and historic pay inequities that continue deepening their disadvantage compared with their male counterparts.

Those who would dismiss this idea as just another government handout need to try walking in the shoes of a working or unemployed mom grappling with the demands of homebound kids in a pandemic. Being pro-family, as many conservatives assert they are, means defending the women who are putting their families before their careers and sacrificing for their kids.

• St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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