Kansas to give child care workers $53M in appreciation pay

By: - June 21, 2022 11:49 am
Gov. Laura Kelly announces a new $53 million bonus pay program for child care workers during a news conference Tuesday at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Gov. Laura Kelly announces a new $53 million bonus pay program for child care workers during a news conference Tuesday at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday announced a $53 million program to deliver bonuses to 22,000 child care workers at licensed facilities in Kansas.

Child care workers will receive a one-time payment between $750 and $2,500, depending on the hours they work, in late July. The governor said the appreciation bonuses are “a reward for their incredibly hard work.”

“Child care providers have faced unbelievable challenges during the last two-and-a-half years,” Kelly said. “Yet they’ve continued to fulfill their critical role in caring for kids. Their work is essential to the social and economic well-being of our state.”

The $53 million program is paid for with federal funds, the governor said. The bonuses will be administered by Child Care Aware of Kansas.

The governor announced the program in a news conference at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka, which renovated its child development center after closing during the pandemic.

Alaina Miller, left, and Jenna Herrin talk about their work in the child development center at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka. They say the new bonus program will help staff morale. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Alaina Miller, left, and Jenna Herrin talk about their work in the child development center at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka. They say the new bonus program will help staff morale. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Jenna Herrin, the center’s assistant director, said the appreciation bonuses will help morale for the underappreciated staff. The center serves about 60 kids ages 1 to 5, and has had to turn families down because it’s so full.

“I’ve worked in child care for a long time, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve been acknowledged for what we do — and it does take a village,” Herrin said.

Kelly said kids who receive early childhood education score higher on math and reading tests, are more likely to graduate, develop better social and emotional kills, and are better collaborators and problems. They earn more money as adults, are more likely to own a home and are less likely to suffer from substance abuse, she said.

“To sum it up, early childhood investment is the smartest investment a community can make in its future,” Kelly said. “It’s also the smartest investment a community can make in its present.”

Kelly said available child care remains a challenge as the state attracts businesses and adds jobs. The state’s unemployment rate recently hit an all-time low of 2.3%.

“That means that every person who wants to work will be able to find work,” Kelly said. “However, one of the biggest barriers to entering the workforce, or returning to the workforce post-pandemic, is the lack of access to quality child care.”

Earlier this year, the Kelly administration announced $160 million in federal grants to help child care providers with operating costs, payroll expenses and revenue losses.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

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