King County, City of Seattle partner to provide payments to child care workers, promote retention

Sheila Ater Capestany, Director of King County’s Children, Youth and Young Adult Division and DCHS
Lead for Best Starts for Kids

This was originally posted on the Department of Community and Human Services Cultivating Connections Blog.

King County and the City of Seattle announced this week a plan to provide one-time retention payments to eligible child care workers across King County. King County is dedicating $5 million from the Best Starts for Kids levy and the City of Seattle is contributing $2.4 million from the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax for a total of $7.4 million to fund an estimated 9,000 child care workers, with one-time payments. 

The application deadline is June 27. Interested providers can check eligibility information and apply here.

Though child care is an absolute necessity for our communities, it is a sector challenged by systemic inequities. Child care workers make some of the lowest wages in the workforce – in Washington they make about $9 less than the median worker, which means many are making an income hovering around minimum wage. Yet, they have had some of the highest risk among workers due to COVID-19 and are tasked with physically and emotionally intensive work. They are more likely to be women and people of color, so it is imperative we make more investments and recognize how vital these providers are to the region.  

Leaders from King County, the City of Seattle, the child care sector, and community organizations came together Monday to emphasize the importance of this investment and underscore this critical workforce that helps King County’s youngest residents grow and thrive.  

Watch King County Executive Dow Constantine’s remarks on the Child Care retention grants

Media Coverage of the Child Care Retention Grants Press Conference: 

The Seattle Times, King County, Seattle to give $7M in payments to child care workers 

King 5, Child care workers in King County are eligible for one-time bonus 

KOMO News, Harrell, Constantine announce retention bonuses for King County childcare workers 

AP, King County, Seattle to give child care worker payments 

Axios Seattle, Bonus payments coming to King County child care workers 

MyNorthwest, King County, Seattle announce bonuses for child care workers 

We will be resourcing the child care sector in multiple ways 

Best Starts for Kids has been looking at a number of areas we can dedicate resources toward child care that will help our babies, children, families and communities thrive.  

The Child Care retention grants are an immediate course of funding that can reach a large number of child care workers promptly. The $7.4 million that the county and city have pulled together is a way to offer immediate relief to workers in an essential sector that has faced a crisis of attrition due to low wages in hazardous conditions.  

Best Starts for Kids Child Care Subsidy Program will reach families who need but can’t otherwise access other child care subsidies. We recognize that Black, brown, and Indigenous families, immigrant families, and families who are multilingual have inequitable access to child care and subsidies. This focused subsidy is a measure to broaden access so more families can have access to sustainable child care.  

King County is also looking at the impacts of wage boosts to child care workers. Best Starts for Kids is creating a Child Care Workforce Demonstration Pilot Project (also known as the Wage Boost Pilot Project) with evaluation to determine the impact of an annual salary supplement for approximately 1400 King County child care providers until 2027. 

These combined efforts will work most effectively in partnership with other jurisdictions, and state and federal investments.  

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