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CHILD'S PLAY FOR EMPLOYERS

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It could have been a corporate child care disaster-parents stuck at home with babysitters stranded, and schools and daycare centers closed by snow.

Instead, many companies in the storm-affected areas reported few child care problems-often because the parent was stuck at home, too.

Managers at Lowe's Co., a home retailer based in North Wilkesboro, N.C., have the flexibility to accommodate staff who have children at home out of school, a spokeswoman said. Some employees in the corporate headquarters even brought their children to the office for a couple of hours, she said.

And even though New York-area schools were closed for two days, several large companies had few problems.

At Citicorp, onsite child care facilities can be expanded in an emergency to accommodate more children. But the need never arose. Most employees seemed to rely on other family members to fill in during school snow days, according to a spokesman for the New York-based bank.

Both International Business Machines Corp. and PepsiCo Inc. in Westchester County, directly north of New York City, were officially closed Monday and neither implemented child care programs for Tuesday and beyond.

"Our workforce wasn't affected that way. Most of us have 'Think Pads' that provide us with the same screen we have in the office, and with voice response phone mail, I just had people call me at home," said an IBM spokesman.