School closings during COVID-19 exposed an under-addressed gender equity issue in the United States: child care in crisis. To better understand the child care crisis in the current U.S. context, we detail how New York City is addressing child care during COVID-19. We then connect the current approaches to the Lanham Act that was instituted during WWII as a historical parallel. Ultimately, we argue for the adoption of a universal system that is affordable, high-quality, federally-funded with local involvement and discretion, and flexible for primary caregivers seeking care support. This potential system builds on current congressional proposals and should take into account the challenges primary caregivers face in order to disrupt gender imbalances in care, and in turn, produce greater gender equity. COVID-19 is an opportunity to instill lasting change by improving the current U.S. child care model.