Free Childcare Program for Service Industry Workers Aims To Bolster Workforce

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Courtesy of Ford's Garage.

It’s no secret the service industry is facing a labor shortage that has intensified during the pandemic. In fact, in the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry Mid-Year Update, 75% of operators said recruiting and retraining was the top challenge facing their business. That’s up from 11% from the year prior.

Now, the Lone Star State is looking to help service industry workers get back to it by offering them free childcare. On Sept. 22, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced a new program, dubbed the Service Industry Recovery (SIR) program, that will provide 12 months of free childcare to low-income parents who are employed in the service industry.

“For many Texans, lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is sometimes the biggest roadblock to getting a job,” says Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez in a press release. “Workers should not have to choose between their families and their jobs. They need and want to do both, and this program helps them do that.”

The industries targeted include low-wage workers in food services, retail trade and the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, some of the greatest impacted by the pandemic.

The $500 million program is funded by a Child Care Development Block Grant through the federal CARES, ARPA and CRRSAA recovery legislation passed by Congress.

The program comes on the heels of Illinois launching a similar free childcare incentive earlier this month, though it’s open to low-income parents in all industries, and they’re eligible for three months.

As of August, eating and drinking establishments still were down nearly 1 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.

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