Tabitha Davis has a problem. As the assistant director of Trinity Daycare and Preschool in north Wichita, she has spots for more kids to join but she can’t offer them because she can't find the staff. "The pay is one of the big challenges. When you work in the early childhood field, you don't get a lot of pay, and you do a lot of work.”

She's not the only one with this issue, Teresa Rupp the executive director at Child Start, daycare and child care training organization in South Central Kansas says they are in “a misery, a desperate situation.”

It’s a problem that childcare providers have been dealing with for years, and has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and lately with inflation and gas prices.

"One of our center staff told me last week that we were having families say I can't bring my children, I can't afford gas bring my children. And her comment was, it may be just a matter of time before our staff say I can't afford the gas come to work," Rupp told Kake.

A new program announced this week by Governor Laura Kelly aims to keep people in the field, by giving $53 million in bonuses to eligible child care staff at licensed facilities. Those bonuses will range from $750 to $2,500 and is expected to be sent out in late July.

Tanya Bulluck, Child Start's early childhood connections coordinator says ‘I like to consider these childcare appreciation bonuses. These are childcare providers who have told us they need these.”

Workers, like Davis say the money is much needed in the short term because “in our daily lives, paying bills, catching up, trying to get ahead. It's going to be a lot. Amazing, a blessing.”

But they also know this is not a long-term solution to what has been a problem long before the pandemic. Rupp says “over the long haul, we really need to be talking about a much bigger solution. Because the pipeline of people who are going to be in classrooms with young children is not full.”

Bulluck says that Child Start will be able to help providers in and around Sedgwick County apply for the bonuses. To contact them to learn more, visit https://childstart.org/ or call 316-682-1853.