NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Just about every industry is short-staffed right now, including childcare and the New Mexico Early Childhood education and care department plans to issue one-time incentive payments of $1,500 to New Mexico child care workers for their work during the pandemic. The payments are funded through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act.

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“This really is meant to underscore the value of early childhood professionals even though childcare professionals play a critical role in many children’s most important developmental years. They are still among the lowest-paid workers in our economy. So, in the short term, these one-time payments serve as a token of appreciation,” New Mexico Early Childhood Care Department Communications Director, Micah McCoy said.

In order to be eligible for the payments, applicants must be employed full or part-time in a licensed or registered child care program and must also be up to date with their background checks. With many caregivers earning around $10 an hour. The department hopes the money will entice others to apply for jobs in the childcare industry such as; teachers, administrative staff, cooks and bus drivers.

“We can’t pay what we’re seeing other industries starting to pay because if we increase those industries to be competitive, that comes out of the pockets of families and families are already struggling right now. things like this incentive pay that’s coming from our childcare department is a huge boost. it’s a great recognition,” Christina Kent Early Childhood Center Executive Director, Sondra Carpenter said.

The department says they’ve already taken steps toward a well-compensated early childhood workforce including launching a program to ensure private pre-k teachers and public school pre-k teachers make close to the same amount. Which has increased teachers’ income between $10,000 and $20,000 a year, as well as offering a bonus for educators who are certified bilingual.

An $18-million federal grant is supporting the one-time payments. Applications for the $1,500 incentive payment will be accepted starting November 1 through December 1. The money is expected to hit people’s bank accounts or mailboxes by mid-November. 

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