Texas began quietly offering free child care for service sector workers late last year

Last October, the state of Texas quietly rolled out a crucial safety net for thousands of parents working in the service industry: free child care. Through the Service Industry Recovery Child Care program, the state pays a stipend to state-licensed child-care providers for parents earning 75 percent or below Texas’ median income and working at least 25 hours in restaurants, bars, and grocery stores, among other jobs. Eater reports that two years into the pandemic, the restaurant and retail industries continue to lament the challenges of staffing up. But in addition to poor pay and benefits or health concerns, workers have regularly cited child care as a significant factor in hindering their ability to return to their old jobs. The service sector was not all that understanding of the needs of parents before Covid (a continued issue well into the pandemic), with many businesses not providing paid parental leave or giving time off to care of sick children. And now the price of daycare has shot up, with a 2021 Lending Tree report estimating that the annual cost for center-based child care rose 41 percent per child compared to pre-pandemic prices. Maybe with this program, some Texas parents can sleep a little easier at night. Matthew Sedacca