King County announces one-time retention bonus for childcare workers

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced today a total of $7.4 million in one-time retention bonus payments to childcare workers. 

The combined funding from the Best Starts for Kids levy and JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax is estimated to reach more than 9,000 childcare workers across the county. 

"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," said Executive Constantine. "These retention payments help address the strain the pandemic has placed on this essential workforce."

Childcare workers have faced a high risk of COVID-19 exposure throughout the pandemic. Providers in this sector saw lost revenue, staffing shortages and retention problems during the last two years. This wage boost aims to provide more stability to the childcare industry, where workers make on average nine dollars less hourly than median workers in the state.

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Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, King County has launched three emergency childcare programs: emergency care for essential workers, support for informal caregivers and sliding scale subsidies for families. 

"The pandemic has underlined how critical affordable, accessible child care is to our economy," said Tricia Schroeder, President of SEIU 925. "This retention bonus will help providers stay open, but our work isn’t done. We need more child care to meet the needs of families, and for that to be a reality, child care providers need stable, adequate funding, health care and retirement benefits, and a voice on the job."

Applications for the funds are now open until Monday, June 27, at 11:59 p.m. and will be available in English, Spanish, Somali, Amharic, Simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese. Applications should be filled out by the employer, and grants will be distributed to all eligible staff via the program’s payroll system.