King County and the City of Seattle are giving more than $7 million in one-time bonuses to local childcare workers.
In a statement before the meeting, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell stressed the importance of properly paying childcare workers, bringing up stagnating wages for employees working to take care of children during the pandemic.
“Though categorized as essential through the pandemic, child care workers are among the lowest wage workers in the state, making nine dollars less hourly than median workers,” the Mayor’s executive press office stated. “Child care workers are more likely to be women and people of color and were among the workers who faced the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure on the job, which meant risking their health.”
The county estimates that about 9,000 workers will receive the retention payments, though this could change depending on how many providers apply for the grant.
Any licensed child care provider in King County may apply for the bonuses on behalf of its employees. Donny Willeto, development director at Child Care Resources, said there are 2,100 licensed child care providers in King County.
“This investment will provide immediate financial relief to help people stay in these critical child care careers, continue important care for our youngest residents, ensure that the child care workforce is stable, and that child care is a great place to work — helping equitably increase access and affordability for families and grow compensation for providers,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
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Susan Brown, president of the child care advocacy nonprofit Kids Co., said that it is especially important to help workers in this particular industry.
“Some of you might be thinking, ‘Well, every sector is struggling to find staff.’ But here’s the difference. Child care is the bedrock of our economy. Every sector — whether it be business, government, education, or health care — every individual is linked to and depends on child care in one way or another,” Brown said.
King County’s Best Starts for Kids levy will provide $5 million in funding for the bonuses, and the City of Seattle’s JumpStart payroll expense tax will provide $2.4 million.
“This industry has faced some of the toughest challenges in the last years dealing with our COVID recovery,” Harrell said. “It’s been very tough on many people, but particularly tough on how we care for our children.”
Child care providers must apply on the Seattle Department of Early Learning’s website by June 27. All employees on a child care provider’s payroll will be eligible and will receive the same amount. The bonus amounts will be determined by how many businesses apply.
Recipients will be notified by the end of July. Payments will be made between August and October.