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Child Care Staff to Receive Up to $5.3 Million to Support Workforce

 $13.5 million in direct industry investments from the City of Seattle since 2021 

SEATTLE (June 12) – For the third consecutive year, the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) will provide millions in relief to support and retain child care workers. Funded by the Payroll Expense Tax, up to $5.3 million–the City’s largest direct payment investment to date–is projected to reach approximately 4,500 child care workers across the city. Applications open Tuesday, June 13, 2023.  

The pandemic exacerbated long-standing challenges in the child care sector. Staffing shortages and wage inequities have become systemic challenges to the continuity of care for families seeking affordable, quality child care. The predominately women of color child care workforce, continues to earn among the lowest wages in the state, approximately ten dollars less hourly than median workers, according to May 2022 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments are intended to provide financial support to help retain and recognize the important role of these essential workers that were the backbone of Seattle’s economy throughout the pandemic. 

“Child care workers provide critical support for Seattle’s youth and families every day and should be able to afford to live in the city where they work,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Only with fair payment and continued investments will we achieve our One Seattle vision for a city where all workers can thrive and every family has access to high quality, affordable child care options. The Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments show our commitment and appreciation to this essential workforce that is helping us build a strong, prosperous future for all youth in our city.” 

“Child care providers have been on the frontline during the pandemic, supporting our families, our communities, and our economy through one of the most challenging crises of our lifetime,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8. “Their work makes all other work possible, and these Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments supported by JumpStart build on the appreciation pay and the construction grants I championed—these are direct investments into the childcare profession and support these skilled workers in the critical and essential career it is. Let’s keep building on our commitment to investing in the wages and stability of childcare workers!” 

Retention Payment Eligibility, Application, and Awards 

Staff working at family child care and center-based programs, licensed by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), within Seattle city limits are eligible to receive payments. Applications must be completed by the employer or in the case of Family Child Care programs, must be completed by the licensee. The application period opens Tuesday, June 13, 2023 and closes Wednesday, July 5, at 11:59 p.m. Applications will be available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.  

The amount per worker will be determined based on the number of eligible staff identified by applicants. Brightspark Early Learning Services—formerly known as Child Care Resources—will distribute funds to providers on behalf of the City of Seattle once applications are processed. Payments will be distributed by each child care program to all eligible staff via the program’s payroll system. Visit Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments for more information. 

Child Care Workforce Investments Background 

The 2023 investment represents the fourth round of payments supporting the child care industry since the start of the pandemic. DEEL has partnered with BrightSpark Early Learning Services to deliver $8.2 million in direct payments to more than 4,500 workers, and stabilization grants for more than 600 businesses, since 2021. Anticipating payments will be in the hands of staff this fall; the Department of Education and Early Learning will have distributed a total of $13.5 million to support this critical industry by the end of the year

Consistent with prior rounds of child care staff payments, DEEL engaged Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, Family Child Care providers, and the Greater Seattle Child Care Business Coalition to align planning and execution of the grants with the needs of the child care community.  


“One-time payments are not a sustainable strategy to advance wage equity in this sector. Child care workers deserve so much more than this one-time payment for the safe and nurturing care they provide for our city’s children. We continue to work with our State and County partners to assess the true cost of care and advocate for wage equity in this critical industry.”   
Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director, Seattle Department of Education & Early Learning  

“The work of child care enables all other work. To that end, the City of Seattle’s recognition of the city’s child care workforce for our contribution to a healthy and thriving community is appreciated, needed, and entirely worth the investment.” 
 Susan Brown, founding member of the Greater Seattle Child Care Business Coalition (GSCCBC) and CEO for Kids Co. Child Care 

“Child care providers are a key part of healthy, thriving communities. Retention payments help keep great staff in our kids’ lives, to help them learn and grow.” 
Tricia Schroeder, President, SEIU 925 

“BrightSpark Early Learning Services is proud to partner once again with DEEL to deliver much needed compensation directly to child care providers in the form of retention payments—an acknowledgement and honoring of the educators who have remained open throughout the last few years enabling parents to work and ensuring children’s access to high quality early learning goes uninterrupted. This effort is missional for BrightSpark and aligns with our commitment to advocate for equitable wages and paying the true cost of child care. The response from providers during the previous rounds of grants was overwhelming: these funds helped stabilize businesses and retain qualified staff. We commend the City of Seattle for prioritizing child care.” 
Phoebe Sade, Executive Officer, BrightSpark Early Learning Services