First responders and other essential workers in King County struggling with childcare needs will soon get some relief thanks to emergency legislation approved Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020 by the King County Council.

The measure, requested by Executive Dow Constantine and approved unanimously by Council, provides $2.2 million in unspent Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account funding to provide free childcare to eligible families of first responders and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these hardworking families have had difficulty finding childcare because many childcare providers and many child care providers and early learning facilities have closed due to declined enrollment.

First responders and essential workers include front-line essential medical professionals and support staff, first responders, childcare providers who are providing emergency care, grocery and pharmacy employees, and transit workers.

“When the King County Council created and adopted the plan for allocating this funding source, we made expanding access to childcare a top priority,” Council Chair Claudia Balducci said. “We did not imagine then that the need would grow to be so emergent and acute. I am proud to work with the Executive and my Council colleagues to repurpose some of this money now to make sure child care is available to first responders, health care professionals, grocery workers and other essential personnel who need our support to keep fighting on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus. As a representative of the district where our first and most deadly outbreak began, I look forward to expanding childcare resources to hard-hit areas throughout King County.”

The legislation is a first step to ensure that first responders and critical essential personnel who live or work in King County outside the City of Seattle have access to safe, consistent and uninterrupted care, while supporting a network of childcare providers that need to fill vacant slots.

The County will work with Childcare Resources to identify providers and match families with vacant slots. Eligible providers will be reimbursed at higher rates to reflect start-up costs associated with new health and safety guidelines, health insurance offsets, or whatever is most needed for the site to continue operating. This effort will help ensure these facilities are still operating when the pandemic ends and families return to their normal working lives.

King County’s Department of Community and Human Services will oversee the program, while the City of Seattle will administer service agreements and payments.

Scott Schaefer

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