TOPEKA — Kansas parents seeking employment and scrambling to find child care will now have access to a state pilot program intended to connect these families with needed resources.
In total, $500,000 in funds from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are available to eligible Kansans searching for a job and accessing services through state workforce centers. The program is being piloted in Workforce Area One, comprising 62 counties in central and western Kansas.
“Access to quality affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers that prevent working parents from joining the workforce,” said Gov. Laura Kelly. “We have recruited new jobs and businesses to communities across Kansas, but in order for those companies to see success and grow, they will need a prepared and available workforce to support them. We want this initiative to be the first of many that support Kansas employers and Kansas families.”
The initiative announced Wednesday is a collaborative effort between the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Department for Children and Families and local workforce investment boards administering the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The federal program is designed to strengthen the public workforce system by connecting job seekers experiencing barriers to employment with high-quality careers.
A child care assistance application can be submitted online, by mail or fax, dropped off, or submitted in-person at a DCF service center.
“Working parents have unique challenges, and this initiative will help many access the quality child care they need in their back-to-work plans,” said Lt. Gov. David Toland, who also serves as commerce secretary. “Supporting working families is good for our workforce and good for our economy in Kansas.”
Getting Kansans back to work after the pandemic left many unemployed has been a topic of much debate between businesses, jobseekers and legislators at the Capitol in Topeka. While Republicans have pointed to unemployment benefits keeping people complacent, Democrats have indicated factors, like difficulty accessing child care, among reasons more people aren’t seeking jobs.
The pilot program seeks to respond to the issue through a new process developed by partnering agencies that will pair job seekers with the best child care program to maximize available funding. DCF secretary Laura Howard praised the new inter-agency referral system for its innovations.
“Access to safe, affordable child care will mean more families can find meaningful employment,” Howard said. “Children benefit from spending time in a safe learning environment, it is one less thing a job seeker must coordinate, and it supports employers that are working to hire staff.”
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