FILE – Child Care worker

(The Center Square) – King County and the City of Seattle are partnering to distribute $7 million in a one-time retention bonus to child care workers across King County.

More than 9,000 child care workers are in line for payments, according to a news release from Seattle and King County. Divided evenly, that would work out to a payment of about $775 per worker.

Funds for the retention bonuses are coming from the Best Start for Kids Levy and the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax.

“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,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement.

After the pandemic started, King County launched three child care programs in support of the industry as it was affected by COVID-19. Essential workers, which include those who work in child care, received emergency care; another program supported informal caregivers; and sliding scale subsidies were distributed to families in need. 

The King County Department of Community and Human Services’ Best Starts for Kids Levy is set to send “more than $23 million in both a child care subsidy program and this one-time payment for providers,” according to the King County Executive’s Office.

Not only have child care workers been dealing with high risk exposures to COVID-19, but they are also among some of the lowest wage workers in the state of Washington, according to data from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

Child care workers make nine dollars less hourly than median workers in Washington State. There were staffing shortages as well for child care workers and there was a struggle to hire and retain staff throughout the county in the last two years, according to the Executive’s Office.

“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,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “These retention payments help address the strain the pandemic has placed on this essential workforce.”

The Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning is putting $2.4 million towards the retention bonuses through the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax. DEEL is also partnering with King County to release another round of stabilization grants for eligible providers.

Any child care staff that works at care programs licensed by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families within King County are eligible for these retention bonuses.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.