Dow Constantine, King County Executive
Bruce Harrell, Mayor of Seattle
For Immediate Release
June 13, 2022
Contact: Lori Baxter, Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning, 206-402-8795
In partnership with the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), King County is funding $7 million to provide one-time retention bonus payments to child care workers across King County. These payments will support this critical workforce, assist in continuity of care, and provide more stability for the industry.
SEATTLE (June 13) – King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced today a one-time retention bonus payment to child care workers across the County. A total of $7.4 million in joint funding will be available for eligible providers. These one-time payments are made possible with combined funding from the Best Starts for Kids levy and JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax and are estimated to reach more than 9,000 child care workers across the county.
Child care workers are among the lowest wage workers in the state, making nine dollars less hourly than median workers, and have faced a high risk of COVID-19 exposure in their field throughout the pandemic. Providers in this essential sector lost revenue, saw staffing shortages, and faced an inability to hire and retain staff during the last two years. This wage boost will help balance the important role child care workers play and the communities they support.
“For a workforce that is predominantly women and people of color, wages have remained consistently lower than in virtually any other sector and haven’t kept up with either growing responsibilities or the cost of living in this region,” said Executive Constantine. “These retention payments help address the strain the pandemic has placed on this essential workforce, and I’m pleased to have the partnership of Mayor Harrell and the City of Seattle in this funding. We continue to look for new ways to support the needs of child care providers, ensuring children in King County are able to access high-quality, affordable early learning and child care opportunities, and that the providers themselves have the support they need to serve in this essential role.”
“Seattle’s child care providers have been heroes of the community, especially during the last two years. In One Seattle, we know every kid deserves the care and support that will put them on a path to success, and we know child care providers are essential to that mission,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “As we seek to create a sustainable child care ecosystem and a healthy regional economy, we are proud to partner with King County to offer child care worker retention payments and stabilization grants for Seattle providers to help them in their continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are so excited and honored to continue supporting providers across King County,” said Phoebe Sade, Chief Executive Officer, Child Care Resources (CCR). “CCR continues to advocate for recognition and proper living wages reflective of the incredibly important and challenging work of providing high quality early learning experiences for children which set the stage for all future experiences.”
“The pandemic has underlined how critical affordable, accessible child care is to our economy, and we’ve been thrilled to partner with local elected leaders to support this critical field,” said Tricia Schroeder, President of SEIU 925. “This retention bonus will help providers stay open, but our work isn’t done. We need more child care to meet the needs of families, and for that to be a reality, child care providers need stable, adequate funding, health care and retirement benefits, and a voice on the job.”
Since the start of the pandemic, King County responded to the significant toll on the child care industry by launching three emergency child care programs: emergency care for essential workers, supports for informal caregivers, and sliding scale subsidies for families. This year, the Best Starts for Kids levy within King County’s Department of Community and Humans Services will invest more than $23 million in both a child care subsidy program and this one-time payment for providers.
DEEL is expanding efforts to stabilize the child care industry that began in 2020, including copay relief for families, child care stabilization grants, and last fall’s child care staff recognition payments. With $2.4 million from the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax, DEEL is partnering with King County to support retention payments for child care staff in Seattle and release another round of stabilization grants for eligible providers.
All child care staff working at Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) licensed child care programs within King County are eligible to receive payments. Application for payments should be filled out by the employer (or in the case of Family Child Care programs, the licensee), and grants will be distributed by the child care program to all eligible staff via the program’s payroll system.
DCYF-licensed providers located within Seattle city limits can also apply for flexible-spending grants for business stabilization.
Applications for the funds are now open and will be available in English, Spanish, Somali, Amharic, Simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese. Child Care Resources will be distributing the funds on behalf of the City of Seattle and King County once applications are processed. The application period will close Monday, June 27, at 11:59 p.m.