The one-time retention bonus is expected to help as many as 9,000 child care workers across King County.
SEATTLE — Child care workers in King County are now eligible for a one-time retention bonus for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the bonus at a Monday press conference.
Constantine said eligible child care workers will be able to submit applications for bonuses from over $7 million in funding provided by King County and the city of Seattle.
“The pandemic reminded us all that child care workers are nothing short of heroic,” Constantine said. “These dedicated professionals showed day after day knowing the risks.”
Donny Willeto, development director for Child Resources, said the bonus applies to every child care worker on payroll, regardless of full or part-time status. Willeto said all King County licensed programs — from birth to 12th grade — along with licensed child care programs are eligible for bonuses.
Each child care worker will receive the same amount, with the total depending on how many eligible employees apply.
Applications for the bonus opened Monday and end on June 27, she said. Willeto said eligible workers that submit an application should receive an award notice by the end of July, with payments distributed between August and October.
Willeto said the applications are available online and emails will be sent to its care provider lists. The applications will be available in multiple languages.
An information session on the application process was scheduled for Monday night at 6:30, and another session in Somali is slated for Tuesday at 6:30. Both Zoom links will be posted on the Department of Early Education’s website, she said.
For more questions, Willeto said child care workers can email [email protected] or call 1-800-446-1114.
The one-time retention bonus is expected to help as many as 9,000 child care workers across King County, Constantine said.
“We know that this investment we announced today is not enough but it is my hope it can be a downpayment – a significant downpayment – and a recognition of the hard work and the critical workforce our region depends on every day,” Constantine said.
A release from King County said child care workers make $9 less per hour than median workers, making them among the lowest wage earners in Washington state.
Child care workers are more likely to be women and people of color, the two groups who faced the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure during the pandemic, the release said.
Constantine said King County launched three emergency child care programs that give grants to providers, emergency care for essential workers, support for informal caregivers, and a sliding scale subsidy for families negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
King County’s voter-approved “Best Starts for Kids” initiative is designed to help incentivize workers to stay in the child care sector and to ensure the state’s workforce is stabilized. Constantine pointed to research showing investing in early year development can lead to lasting positive impacts on a child’s life.
Lois Martin, Executive Director of Community Day Center for Children, said many child care centers were shuttered in the wake of the pandemic because families kept children away from group settings or child care workers left the field.
Martin, who founded a community center in Seattle’s Central District in 1963, said coalition leaders asked Seattle in 2021 for more money to support the child care workforce.
Martin said the city of Seattle awarded child care workers $2.9 million in 2021 as a thank you for continuing in-person services during the early phases of the pandemic despite the health risks.
“I am hopeful that this is the first of many installments and more direct funding as we continue to advocate for public or private assistance to ensure educators in the child care sector receive a thriving wage,” Martin said.
Susan Brown, founder and CEO of Kids Co, said these funds will help address what she called a “child care crisis.”
“Child care is the bedrock of our economy,” Brown said. “Every sector, every individual is linked to and depends on child care in one way or another. This is long overdue respect for our invisible, essential workforce.”