Whether Australia's economy bounces back as quickly as politicians hope once the coronavirus crisis is over could come down to one thing: child care.
Centres around the country are teetering on the brink of closure as parents pull their kids out in droves, whether because they can no longer afford the fees or have health fears.
The sector is warning unless urgent steps are taken, the crucial care that allows the parents of more than a million children to keep working could disappear forever.
"We hold the economy of the nation in our hands," Australian Childcare Alliance NSW president Lyn Connolly told AAP.
"If we close, there is nowhere for the children to go to while their parents go out to work. Then we'll never get this country going again."
The national cabinet - the prime minister and state leaders - will consider the problem when it meets again on Friday.
But Labor's early childhood spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth says even that delay of a few days could be too long.
"They need some urgency around this, there will be centres closing their doors potentially permanently this week because of income issues not because they've been forced to shut down for health reasons," she told AAP.
It's widely agreed there is a simple solution within the government's reach - keep paying the child care subsidies (CCS) it has already budgeted for without requiring centres to charge parents fees.
These subsidies account for about 60 per cent of a childcare centre's income on average and, combined with the $1500 fortnightly wage subsidy announced on Monday, could be enough to keep it afloat.
Currently centres must charge a "gap fee" to receive the government contribution, unless they are forced to close for health reasons.
But the medical advice to governments remains that childcare - like schools - should stay open, although national cabinet has advised parents to keep their children home unless they absolutely cannot.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the advice to keep centres open had been provided fearlessly.
"In relation to both schools or childcare centres, what we want to preserve above all else is the capacity of our critical workforce to be able to work," he told reporters.
The difference is that schools don't lose out economically if children are kept home, United Workers Union early childhood education director Helen Gibbons says.
"If centres could have the capacity to waive the gap fee for this period, that would allow parents to keep their enrolments on the books and it would allow the CCS ... to continue to go to the centres," she told AAP.
"It's really key that we've got to get that piece of it sorted out because parents can't afford to be paying the gap fee right now, centres don't want to charge them, but they're legally obliged to at the moment."
Ms Connolly said the sector only wanted the money already budgeted for it, not anything new from taxpayers.
"If there was no coronavirus the centres would be getting this money because the children would be attending," she said.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said last week he was aware of the challenges confronting the sector because of rapidly falling attendance.
His office did not respond to questions on Tuesday about temporarily waiving the gap payment requirements for centres still open.
The union also has concerns the wage subsidy might not extend to Australia's largest childcare provider, the Goodstart Early Learning, because its turnover was more than $1 billion which means it has to meet a higher threshold for losses.
"It's a perverse outcome, I don't think that this was the intention of the government to drive Goodstart to the wall in order to access the wage subsidies," Ms Gibbons said.
The union is seeking an agreement to let the not-for-profit giant access the wage subsidies if its turnover drops by 30 per cent, as with smaller businesses.
A spokesperson for Goodstart told AAP it expected the $1500 fortnightly payment would help some of its centres' families keep their jobs and thus keep their children in care.
Australian Associated Press