Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Victory! Major Investments in Compensation and Health Coverage for Essential Child Care Workers

Child care advances in Washington's 2021 legislative session

Great news! Washington’s legislature passed a budget that makes major investments for child care workers in their compensation and health care – thanks to our mutual efforts working together for the health, economic security, and respect of child care workers.


Increased compensation: The state budget passed by the Legislature includes $360 million for child care grants for all licensed providers, inclusive of child care centers and family homes. Within this allocation, 10% of these grants, or $36 million, is dedicated to increased compensation for child care workers. 75% of this funding must be distributed in the next 8 months. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families will be implementing this budget item for increased compensation. We will be working with this Department to figure out implementation. We estimate that at least 10,000 child care workers will be able to receive increased compensation, thanks to this budget.


Health coverage for child care workers: The state budget includes $30 million for health coverage for child care workers through the Health Benefit Exchange. We anticipate this health coverage to be available by September 1st. We estimate that at least 15,000 child care workers will be able to receive premium-free health coverage, thanks to this budget.

A year ago, at the start of the pandemic, you joined in our mutual efforts for better compensation and health coverage for child care workers. While child care workers were designated as essential workers, caring for the children of other essential employees, child care workers remained at the end of the line for compensation and respect in our state.

  • Together we petitioned the state for better compensation and health coverage, last March, last April, last May, last June, last July, last August, and on and on.
  • We convened meetings with the Health Benefit Exchange and persuaded the Exchange to open up a “window” specifically for child care workers to gain health coverage. The Exchange dedicated a bilingual navigator to help child care workers through the application process and publicized how-to leaflets in 8 languages.
  • We again petitioned the Legislature for compensation for child care workers and the funds needed for expanded health coverage.
  • We became discouraged, but we persisted. Yesterday, with this new state budget, we finally prevailed.

State Representatives Tana Senn and Frank Chopp, and State Senator Claire Wilson deserve great thanks for these budgeted services for child care workers. As do the child care workers, family homes, child care centers, and child care center directors who raised their voices.

We will provide more information on the implementation of increased compensation and health coverage over the next few weeks.

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