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Texas Offers Free Child Care for Service Industry Workers

Parents in retail, food service and other fields may receive one year of no-cost child care as Texas recovers from the pandemic.

During her pregnancy last year, Collin County mom Sandra Davis found herself in a stressful situation. COVID-19 was dragging on, and as the sole provider for soon-to-be four children, there was no question—she had to work. But there was a problem. Davis benefited from a state program that covers a portion of the cost of child care. During her pregnancy, however, she was unable to work the required number of hours to maintain her eligibility. On her own, child care was too expensive, and as she welcomed her newborn, Davis’ dilemma only grew.

“I was trying to find help from anybody who would offer it,” she recalls. “I stayed at home some, and my sister-in-law watched the kids some. I was working days where I could find a babysitter. It was a headache. I needed real child care for my kids so I could go to work and feed them and take care of them.”

Davis inquired with Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas about her options and found a lifeline. As a retail worker, Davis has access to a special program that provides free child care for one year for Texas parents who work in the service industry. Soon, Davis’ children were under the care of licensed professionals, and she was back working the hours she needed. “It’s a whole lot better,” Davis says, “to be able to do my job and know I can provide for my kids.”

Help for the Service Industry, its Workers and All Texans

We’ve all felt the effects the pandemic has inflicted on the service industry. Restaurants can’t seat diners, even though there are plenty of open tables. Hotels aren’t able to provide room service or daily housekeeping. Stores have limited hours. In order to fully recover and get back to normal operations, those businesses need employees. But child care can be so costly that some who want to work are simply unable to do so.

Through the Service Industry Recovery Act, the Texas Workforce Commission approved $500 million to assist parents working in a variety of service fields hit hard by the pandemic. The program is designed to help those who are eligible go back to work by providing an entire year of child care at no cost. “It’s a fairly short process,” says Katina Prescott, project director with Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, which administers the grant funding for more than a dozen regional counties. “You submit a short application, turn in verification of income, proof of citizenship or legal immigration status of children needing care and, if eligibility is approved, you could have child care within the next week.”

The program is reserved for lower-wage workers who meet program requirements, including working in these job areas:

  • Accommodation and food service, such as hotels, restaurants and food delivery services
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation, such as fitness centers, movie theaters and amusement parks
  • Retail, such as clothing stores, gas stations and grocery stores

Davis was able to enroll her three younger children (her oldest is 14, and the program provides for children 12 and under); her baby has all-day care, while the others go after school. The center Davis selected is among hundreds of local child care providers that already partner with Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. If parents prefer another care provider, Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas can reach out about establishing an agreement.

“It was easy and simple to sign up,” Davis shares. “My Workforce Solutions caseworker is awesome. She told me everything I needed to send in and what to do. There was a short application, and I was approved.”
That has created a domino effect of benefits. Davis is able to work and bring home a regular paycheck—and all of it goes directly to her family, since she doesn’t have to cover any child care costs. The program also provides a boost to her child care center, which receives funding from Texas Workforce Commission. And Davis’ employer can count on her, allowing the store to stay open for shoppers.

That’s what the Service Industry Recovery Program is all about, notes Prescott. “This is good for parents who work in the specified service industries, and it’s good for employers who need to build back their businesses. It’s a win for everyone at a time that’s critical for our economy, and for our state and nation as a whole.”

For Davis, the program provides an opportunity to put her family on firm ground financially. “Children are not cheap,” she acknowledges. “But now I know I can put food on the table and get my kids what they need.”

Interested in applying? Here are more details to know:

The Service Industry Recovery Program application deadline is March 10, 2022. For families to be eligible for the free year of child care, at least one parent must be employed in an approved service industry field and not exceed income limits set to benefit workers most in need of assistance. Single parents must work a minimum of 25 hours per week, while a two-parent household needs a combined 50 hours of weekly employment. Applications and required documentation should be submitted to the Workforce Solutions board serving your county. Find all eligibility requirements and more Service Industry Recovery Program details at dfwjobs.com/free.

If you work in another industry and need child care tuition assistance, contact your local Workforce Solutions office about the regular low-income child care subsidy program.

Promoted content sponsored by Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas.