Service industry workers in Texas can now receive up to one year of free child care and after-school care for their children through the Service Industry Recovery Child Care program.
The program, known as SIR, is an extension of the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child care services and comes at a time of a nationwide child care shortage.
“The SIR is important on several levels. For starters, many service workers don’t have readily available income to pay for quality child care,” said Leila Melendez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Borderplex in El Paso. “This will ease the burden on these parents, help them get back to work and help bring the service industry back to pre-pandemic service levels.
“Second, funds paid to child care providers are a good source of revenue for at least a year. This income can help pay their workers and stabilize their business. WSB is there for both parents and providers early in this process – providing immediate resources. And WSB will be there throughout the year to ensure their sustainability after the end of the SIR.
A $500 million program, SIR is funded through a Child Care Development Block Grant with federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Through grants, the 28 Workforce Development Councils in Texas were tasked with implementing the program. In El Paso, that board is Workforce Solutions Borderplex.
“Each region received an amount based on service worker estimates and child care needs projections,” Melendez said. “The BMS received $17 million to fund child care for service workers for one year and to incentivize and support these workers to return to work.”
Service-sector employees make up 25% of all workers in El Paso, according to recent data provided by Karina Castillo, senior administrative analyst at Workforce Solutions.
Under contract with Workforce Solutions, the YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region operates Child Care Services, or CCS, for the Workforce Council and facilitates funding for all child care centers accepting CCS in the counties of ‘El Paso, Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio.
“This program is a way for the Texas Workforce Commission, WSB and the YWCA to promote economic recovery and growth in the community,” said Sylvia Acosta, YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region CEO. “We know we can’t do any of this without childcare – it’s fundamental to enabling women to work, to enabling families to work. This is essential to stabilize the economy.
According to the YWCA, the average cost of child care in El Paso is $120 per child per week, which works out to an average of $6,240 per year.
Acosta said more than 80% of the people the YWCA serves with CCS are divorced women or single heads of households.
“Most educators are women. Most people working in service industries are also women. And women have also been on the front lines of this pandemic,” Acosta said. “But we must not forget that women are not just employees. They are usually the primary caregivers of children and often also the primary caregivers of their parents. Women are therefore fundamentally at the center of the revival of this economy.
To be eligible, SIR applicants must work in the arts, entertainment, recreation, hospitality, restaurant, or retail industries.
Other qualifications include income at or below 75% of state median income, households with single parents working at least 25 hours per week, and two-parent households working at least 50 hours per week.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone, a win for employers and a win for employees,” Acosta said. “We almost never have this kind of opportunity, but SIR has created this win-win.”
Email El Paso Inc. digital editor Amaris Richardson at email@example.com or call (915) 525-9480 ext. 132.