Childcare workers in King County are eligible for one-time bonus

The one-time retention bonus is expected to help up to 9,000 childcare workers across King County.

SEATTLE — Beginning Monday, child caregivers in King County will be eligible for a one-time loyalty bonus for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the bonus at a news conference Monday.

Constantine said eligible childcare providers could submit claims for more than $7 million in awards provided by King County and the City of Seattle.

“The pandemic has reminded us all that childcare workers are nothing short of heroic,” Constantine said. “These dedicated professionals have proven day after day that they understand the risks.”

Child Resources development director Donny Willeto said the bonus applies to all childcare workers on the payroll, whether they work full-time or part-time. Willeto said all of King County’s licensed programs — from birth through grade 12 — along with licensed child care programs are eligible for awards.

Each educator receives the same amount, with the total depending on how many eligible employees apply.

Applications for the bonus opened on Monday and will end on June 27, she said. Willeto said eligible workers who apply should receive an award notice by the end of July, with payments spread out between August and October.

Willeto said the applications are available online and emails are sent to care provider lists. The applications will be available in multiple languages.

RELATED: How eligible childcare workers can claim a bonus

An information session on the application process is scheduled for Monday evening at 6:30 am and another session in Somali for Tuesday at 6:30 am. Both Zoom links will be posted on the Department of Early Education’s website, she said.

For additional questions, Willeto said, childcare providers can email or call 1-800-446-1114.

The one-time retention bonus is expected to help up to 9,000 child caregivers in King County, Constantine said.

“We know that this investment announced today is not enough, but I hope it can be a down payment – a significant down payment – and a recognition of the hard work and vital workforce our region depends on every day,” Constantine said .

A King County press release states that childcare workers make $9 less an hour than average workers, making them among the lowest wage earners in Washington state.

Childcare workers are more likely to be women and people of color, the two groups who have been at highest risk of COVID-19 exposure during the pandemic, the release said.

Constantine said King County has launched three emergency childcare programs that provide grants to providers, emergency care for essential workers, support for informal caregivers, and a tiered grant for families negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

King County’s voter-approved Best Starts for Kids initiative aims to help incentivize workers to remain in the childcare sector and ensure the state’s workforce is stabilized. Constantine pointed to research showing that investing in early childhood development can result in lasting positive effects in a child’s life.

Lois Martin, executive director of the Community Day Center for Children, said many daycare centers have closed amid the pandemic because families kept children out of groups or childcare workers left the field.

Martin, who founded a community center in Seattle’s Central District in 1963, said coalition leaders asked Seattle for more money in 2021 to support child care workers.

Martin said the city of Seattle awarded child caregivers $2.9 million in 2021 as a thank you for continuing in-person services during the early stages of the pandemic despite the health risks.

“I am confident that this is the first of many installments and more direct funding as we continue to lobby for public or private support to ensure educators in the childcare sector receive thriving salaries,” said Martin.

Susan Brown, founder and CEO of Kids Co, said these funds would help address what she called a “childcare crisis.”

“Childcare is the bedrock of our economy,” Brown said. “Every sector, every individual is connected and dependent on childcare in one way or another. This is a long overdue respect for our invisible, essential workforce.” Childcare workers in King County are eligible for one-time bonus

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