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12,000 child care providers in King County to receive one-time payments totaling $7 million

More than 12,000 child care workers across King County are expected to receive one-time retention payments funded through a partnership between King County and the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning.

Seattle - Following an announcement of $7 million in funding in June from King County and the City of Seattle, more than 12,000 child care providers are expected to receive one-time payments for retention bonuses. King County is contributing $5 million through the Best Starts for Kids levy and the City of Seattle is contributing $2.4 million from the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax.

Nearly 90 percent of eligible licensed child care providers in the county applied for the retention payments, reflecting a deep need in the workforce. Due to the number of applications, the one-time payment will range from $400 – $500 per child care worker and begin to reach providers this month through September.

"Child care workers are essential to a healthy, thriving region, providing critical services to families and communities every day," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "We are committed to access to affordable child care and respectful wages for child care workers, and these investments provide the necessary support to ensure both. We're grateful for our partnership with Mayor Harrell and the City of Seattle and will continue to collaborate on ways we can invest in this workforce."

“Through the most challenging and unpredictable of circumstances, child care workers stepped up during the pandemic to support our city’s children and families. It is our turn to show up for them. To reach our vision for One Seattle, we must build a sustainable future where families have access to high-quality, affordable care, and providers can earn a thriving wage that reflects the value they provide to our economy. We will get to that future only through strong partnerships built on respect, trust, and collaboration with the child care community,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell.

The retention payments came in direct response to the additional responsibilities during the pandemic, ongoing inequities in the field, and barriers and challenges the child care workforce has faced. Though child care is essential to the well-being of our communities, families, and children, it is one of the lowest-wage jobs in our state’s workforce. In Washington, child care workers make about $9 less than the median worker, hovering around minimum wage.

At the same time, child care workers are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to the nature of their work and have lost income when facilities had to close, all while being tasked with emotionally and physically taxing work. This retention payment project is providing funds to incentivize the ongoing retention of providers and to collect data on current rates of turnover in the field.

“Child care workers have served on the frontlines of our pandemic to ensure our city’s kiddos are cared for and safe, and that working families can continue to balance work and childcare. Despite being in one of our state’s most underpaid professions, child care workers continue to show up for our community when we need it most,” said Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “Thank you to all those who serve and to our community partners who have made these payments possible.”

“Child care providers have been crucial to getting us through the pandemic and economic recovery,” said Cindy Elizalde, Executive Vice President of SEIU 925. “These grants will go a long way to help child care small business owners stay open so that kids can be safe and parents can work.”

All child care staff working at Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) licensed child care programs within King County were eligible to receive payments. Grants will be distributed by the child care program to all eligible staff via the program’s payroll system.

In addition to the child care retention payment distributed to providers throughout King County, providers in Seattle were also eligible for a one-time stabilization grant from the City of Seattle to help support their continued recovery from COVID-19 and provide for a variety of business needs, such as mental health supports for children or staff, health and nutrition needs, cleaning or sanitizing supplies, or payroll costs. In total, 631 Seattle child care businesses received just under $1.1 million in stabilization grants.

“Child care programs are struggling to rebuild from the financial impacts and staffing shortages of the pandemic. The City of Seattle Child Care Stabilization Grants are a lifeline to helping sustain child care programs so we can continue to serve the child care needs of working and student families,” said Susan Brown, Founder of Greater Seattle Child Care Business Coalition.

Child Care Resources managed the application process and is the main point of contact with providers on funding awards and denials. Staff are working to respond to questions from both providers and the public and will communicate directly with organizations. For questions, contact Child Care Resources at (800) 446-1114 or


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