When now-former SpaceX Dragon mission director Erin Beck became pregnant with her first child roughly four years ago, the company's "generous" benefits were just not enough.

She wanted to be home full time with her daughter and arrange her work life flexibly so she could raise her, but with the loss of income from leaving her day job she couldn't afford to.

That's how the Wana Family Network was born in 2017. Beck, who's founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based public benefit corporation, looked to the parent-helping-parent, cooperative kind of childcare she was raised on as a kid. But she couldn't find any such app.

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Erika Metry is trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage on the tidy, three bedroom Inglewood home where she and her mother run a small childcare center that's now looking after kids of frontline workers.

The children she took care of pre-COVID-19 no longer come, but she's one of the lucky small-business owners who can keep their doors open during the pandemic. Metry has stayed afloat thanks in part to her partnership with WeeCare, a Marina Del Rey, venture-backed company that has been connecting essential workers to childcare providers.

As the pandemic has worn on, about half of the nation's childcare centers have closed and about a third of childcare homes have shuttered, according to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Meanwhile, half of the employees that made up the industry are furloughed or out of a job.

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