Are you looking for a job but also need child care? Kansas has a new pilot program to help you

Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal
Companies are using childcare incentives to lure workers back.

Kansas parents who are struggling to find affordable child care while looking for work will now have access to a state pilot program. 

Gov. Laura Kelly announced the pilot program on Wednesday. It is a collaboration of state agencies to help refer job seekers to child care assistance programs.

"Access to quality affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers that prevents working parents from joining the workforce," Kelly said in a statement. "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 supports Kansas employers and Kansas families."

The initiative is a partnership among the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Kansas Department for Children and Families child care subsidy for job seekers, and local workforce investment boards administering Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funding.

A total of $500,000 in funds is available through WIOA funding for eligible people who are searching for jobs and accessing services through Kansas Workforce Centers.

"Working parents have unique challenges, and this initiative will help many access the quality child care they need in their back-to-work plans," Lt. Gov. and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. "Supporting working families is good for our workforce, and good for our economy in Kansas."

Businesses have complained of difficulties in hiring workers as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. While Republicans have mostly blamed the expanded federal unemployment benefits, which expire Sept. 6, Democrats have pointed to other factors, such as low pay and access to child care.

More:Kansas will not withdraw from expanded federal unemployment programs, Gov. Laura Kelly says

The new pilot program seeks to address the child care barrier to entering the workforce.

"This innovative referral system between state agencies will help Kansas job-seekers gain access to child care assistance," DCF Secretary Laura Howard said. "Access to safe, affordable child care will mean more families can find meaningful employment. 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."

The federal WIOA legislation, signed into law in 2014, was designed the strengthen the workforce by helping Americans, especially youth and those with significant barriers to employment, find high-quality jobs and careers.

The new Kansas pilot program seeks to maximize the funding, starting in Workforce Area One, which covers 62 counties in western and central Kansas.

Local workforce center locations can be found online at www.kansasworks.com/.