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Over 3,700 Seattle Child Care Staff Receiving Up To $1,380 to Support Worker Retention 


September 12, 2023

Contact: Sage Leibenson,, 206.507.6701    

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

SEATTLE (September 12) – More than 3,700 Seattle child care professionals are receiving a one-time payment of up to $1,380 from the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) to support child care worker retention. Funded by $5.3 million in Jumpstart Payroll Expense Tax funds—the City’s largest direct payment investment to date—Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments provide financial relief for workers that constitute a critical, yet underpaid, industry. Workers receiving funds represent a total of 500 provider agencies across the city, including center-based, school-age, and family child care programs.  

Long-standing staffing shortages and wage inequities in the child care sector—exacerbated by the pandemic—have become systemic challenges for families seeking affordable, quality care. This sector, which is predominately comprised of women of color, 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. The City’s payments are intended to recognize the important role of child care workers, and mitigate ongoing pandemic impacts to staffing by incentivizing worker retention.  

“Child care workers—and a strong and stable workforce—are critical for ongoing pandemic recovery and healthy communities,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Investing in our child care providers will ensure that the people who care for Seattle’s youngest learners can continue to provide them with high-quality early learning opportunities, preparing our youth for success in academics and beyond. I’m pleased that the Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments will continue to show our appreciation and support of this workforce helping us build a prosperous future for our entire city.”   

About 72% of licensed child care providers operating within Seattle boundaries applied for payments on behalf of their staff. Of 3,750 total child care staff recipients, 73% identify as people of color. This year’s award distribution includes 46 first-time agencies to receive staff retention payments, most of which (78%) are family child care providers. Based on the total number of applicants, the total award amount for each worker is $1,380 before administrative fees and taxes are applied. 

While these one-time payments are not enough to eliminate persistent wage inequity faced by women of color providers in a historically underfunded profession, they are an acknowledgment by City leaders that greater investment is urgently needed to support child care workers and ensure continuity of access to high quality care for families. 

“Child care workers provided a critical service that benefitted all of us during the height of the pandemic, caring for our kiddos and supporting our families, communities, and economy in the face of a once-in-a-generation crisis,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8. “These Seattle Child Care Staff Retention Payments, made possible because of the JumpStart progressive payroll tax I championed, are a much-needed investment into these skilled workers who have helped carry our community through the pandemic and beyond. This is an important step to demonstrate our commitment and gratitude to the childcare professionals who are the bedrock of our community and economy, and our work continues to ensure stability and equity for these essential workers.” 

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. This year’s payment recipients are City’s largest cohort of long-term child care staff receiving retention payments to date. Upon distribution of 2023 funds, DEEL will have partnered with BrightSpark Early Learning Services—formerly known as Child Care Resources—to deliver $13.5 million in direct funds to workers, and stabilization grants for more than 600 businesses, since 2021. Previous awards included August 2022 ($2.4M), December 2021 ($2.9M), February 2021 ($2.3M), and $535K in general funds supporting child care provider stabilization grants in May 2021.    

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. 

Retention Payment Eligibility, Awards, and Distribution 

Staff working at family child care and center-based programs within Seattle city limits since at least March 1, 2023, and are licensed by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) were eligible to receive payments. The amount per worker was determined based on the number of eligible staff identified by providers. Payments are being distributed by Brightspark Early Learning Services on behalf of the City of Seattle to each child care program, who will pay eligible staff via the program’s payroll system. As of September 6, $4.5 million has been issued to nearly 90% of providers. All payments are anticipated to be in the hands of workers no later than November 30, 2023. 


Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director, Seattle Department of Education & Early Learning.  

“Nurturing care is foundational to healthy child development and plays a key role in keeping our economy moving. While additional investments are needed to advance wage equity in this sector, retention payments provide urgent financial relief for our city’s critical, yet historically underpaid, child care workforce.”  

Susan Brown, Kids Co. CEO and Greater Seattle Child Care Business Coalition Spokesperson 

“These payments recognize the dedication of child care staff, one retention payment at a time. More than 3,700 frontline heroes are receiving well-deserved awards from the City of Seattle. Together, we’re shaping a brighter future for Seattle’s children.” 

Phoebe Sade, Executive Officer, BrightSpark Early Learning Services 

“The success of this grant is a testament to the community partnerships that are vital for the success of Seattle’s early learning communities. BrightSpark’s collaboration with the City of Seattle was key in being able to impact thousands of child care staff with much-needed financial assistance. We’re energized by the opportunity to continue working with dedicated organizations in our region to further our mission of nurturing sustaining, child-centered, anti-racist early learning communities.” 

The Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning’s mission is to transform the lives of Seattle children, youth, and families through strategic investments in education.