State offers free child care for a year for service industry workers

At least one parent must work in arts, entertainment, food services or retail

SAN ANTONIO – The state is offering a year of free child care for those who work in restaurants, bars and the entertainment industry to help relieve the labor shortage for these businesses.

Workforce Solutions Alamo was given a $43 million grant by the Texas Workforce Commission to help those in the service industry get back to work by taking the burden of child care off them for a year.

Adrian Lopez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo, says about 700 families are currently enrolled, but more than 4,000 slots are still open. The 12-month program costs parents in the industry $0.

“These are the types of supports that are necessary to get people back to work to be able to provide them the necessary tools so that they can place their child in a safe place,” Lopez said.

According to the Workforce Solutions website, these are the requirements:

  • The parent must require child care services in order to work.
  • One-parent households must be working a minimum of 25 hours per week; two-parent households must be working a total of 50 hours per week to qualify.
  • The family income must be below 75% of the State Median Income (SMI,) and the child must: be under age 13 (or under age 19 if disabled).
  • Have legal citizenship or immigration status.
  • Reside with a family (including with an individual standing in loco parentis) within the Alamo local Workforce Development area.

Yolanda Cornejo, a single mom, was at the end of her rope trying to get more hours in at her job as a server and using a free day care that did not have flexible hours for her to work. She started paying for a day care she could barely afford, which turned out to be a mistake.

“It was the lowest rate. And so that’s what I needed,” Cornejo said. “[The daycare worker] was forgetting my kids at school. My kids weren’t being taken care of properly. My daughter wasn’t being changed. Like, it was a horrible experience.”

Cornejo made a desperate call to Workforce Solutions Alamo, where she had applied for services more than a year before to see if some program was available to help her.

“Please, somebody, please. Just even if you can bring me in a direction, like I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” she said.

In a week and a half, Cornejo’s kids were enrolled in a day care they all loved, and it didn’t cost her.

“I’m happy. Like, I’m so grateful and thankful. And it is life-changing because now I have the room to work an eight-hour shift and try to, you know, make as much money as I can,” she said.

Paying for the day care made Cornejo dip into her rent money, and she’s in the process of being evicted. She’s hoping, with more hours, she can make up the payment. She urges any other parents who are struggling to call and ask about the Workforce programs.

“You just don’t know what’s out there, and you just don’t know if you qualify, and you’re never going to know if you don’t pick up the phone and at least try,” Cornejo said.

Click here to apply for the Workforce program. Funding is available until March 2023.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.