Child care professionals that worked through the COVID-19 pandemic in New Mexico are eligible for a $1,500 incentive payment, according to the state’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD).
Those eligible include babysitters, teachers, administrative staff, cooks and bus drivers, the ECECD’s announcement stated.
The department allocated $18 million from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation (CRSSA) Act to fund the payment.
“The dedication that child care workers have shown to this state’s children and families throughout this public health emergency is nothing short of heroic,” said ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky.
“Even during the darkest days of the pandemic, child care professionals showed up every day to create safe and nurturing learning environments for our children. These one-time payments are a small way we can recognize and celebrate the invaluable service they have provided to our communities.”
ECECD Communications Director Micah McCoy said child care workers allowed the state to get through the peak of the pandemic.
“Essential workers, first responders, doctors and nurses couldn’t have gone to work to keep our state running if they didn’t have these dedicated professionals,” McCoy said.
McCoy said a backlog in applications delayed the process but the ECECD is dedicated to ensuring that all childcare workers that apply by the Dec. 1 deadline, get a check.
CEO of CARC Mark Schinnerer said CARC daycare services stayed open throughout the pandemic while dealing with quarantines and COVID-19 regulations that limited class sizes.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the state is recognizing the fact that these individuals work through the whole thing,” Schinnerer said.
Schinnerer said these payments will be a great help for CARC’s daycare staff as costs go up and Christmas approaches.
The payments are a part of the ECECD’s plan to strengthen the early childhood workforce in New Mexico. McCoy said the payment is also a way to retain child care workers.
“We are looking at a pretty serious shortage of child care workers in the state,” McCoy said. “Child care providers often tell us that the biggest problem is that they’re unable to operate at full capacity because they don’t have the staff.”
While CARC has also faced shortages in child care staff Schinnerer said the greater challenge has been finding healthcare workers.
“I have nearly 20 percent of my full-time positions in my healthcare program open and I wish they would do some kind of incentive to hire people there,” Schinnerer said.
Not all child care workers and educators qualify for the incentive payment. McCoy said care workers must be registered with the ECECD and those under the Public Education Department do not qualify.
McCoy said one of the ECECD’s long-term goals is to raise compensation for child care professionals, who may make as little as $10 an hour.
Some of the steps the department has taken to improve the child care workforce in the state include:
- Awarding $157 million in grants to help child care providers stabilize their businesses, recruit and retain staff.
- Tripling enrollment in the ECECD’s wage supplement program for teachers making less than $16 an hour.
- Launching a pre-k pay parity program to better align private sector pre-k teacher salaries with public school pre-k teachers, increasing qualifying teachers’ annual income between 10,000 and 20,000.
- Creating a $1,500 bonus for early childhood educators who are certified bilingual.
- Doubling the number of early childhood education scholarships provided to early childhood educators seeking a professional certification or advanced degree.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.