Child care and education are among the most pressing concerns facing many American families. The cost of quality child care, in particular, often makes up a big part of a family’s budget alongside tuition fees, housing, and utilities, etc. Finding ways to pay for all these expenses can be particularly challenging for low income families.
But did you know there are multiple ways that can help you lower child care costs or even get free child care? In this blog post, we will give you a summary of different programs that offer assistance or discounts to families who are in need.
These programs can mainly be categorized into
- Fully government-run
- Fully or partially government-funded but run by private or non-profit organizations (NGOs)
- Employer or School-run
- Programs aimed for indigenous people
- Tax credit
Child Care Financial Assistance
States and Territories receive funding from the federal government to provide high quality child care and children improvement programs for low-income working families in their states. Parents that have fulfilled the eligibility requirements may receive financial assistance to pay for day care, so that they can go to work or attend school.
For more information about these programs, visit the website of ChildCare.gov, select your state, and click the tab for "Financial Assistance for Families."
Head Start and Early Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start programs are FREE for eligible families with young children from birth to age 5. Their programs are designed to prepare infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers for early childhood education. They also provide family health and wellness services, family well-being and other family services.
To learn more about the services that Head Start and Early Head Start provide for eligible children and their families, visit the Office Of Head Start. You can also find out the locations of the service centers at your local community here.
State-Funded Prekindergarten Programs
State-funded prekindergarten programs focus on helping children between 3 and 5 years of age to get ready for kindergarten. Some states offer free daycare for low income families, or at very low cost to eligible citizens in need. Programs may be part-day or full-day.
Visit the website of the education department of your state for more details on Child Development and Early Learning in your area.
Military Child Care Financial Assistance Programs
There are several programs that help military families pay for child care, wherever they are stationed, and whatever branch of the military they are serving. Explore the military child care options that are available for your family by visiting Military.ChildCare.com.
Local and Provider-Specific Assistance and Discounts
Local Assistance and Scholarships
Nonprofit organizations and child care providers often offer fee assistance or financial aid to needy families. You can contact the local service providers you have in mind to learn about their child care resources and assistance options.
Many child care providers offer sibling discounts (usually in a range of 5-15%) to families that enroll multiple children. They may take a percentage or a specific dollar amount off of the older child’s weekly or monthly fee. Some may also waive registration or other fees. Check with your providers if you are looking for child care for more than one child.
Apart from military families, federal workers can also receive high quality child care service from GSA (General Service Administration)-operated centers across the country at a discounted fee. Check out the GSA Child Care site for more information about their facilities and the financial assistance they provide for child care tuition.
Work- and School-Related Programs
Employer-Sponsored Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account
Some employers provide child care benefits to their employees while they are at work. They may allow employees to put a portion of each paycheck into a special fund called a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (or “FSA”). The contribution will be used to pay for child care services while you are working. The money you contribute to a Dependent Care FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, so you end up paying less in taxes and taking home more of your paycheck.
Not only can the funds be used for child care, but it can also be applied to summer camps, before or after school programs, and even adult care if your family is taking care of someone that needs physical attention. Check with your company's human resources department to see if your employer offers these benefits.
Other Employer Resources
Some companies cover a portion or all of their employee's child care costs as part of their employee's fringe benefits package. Some employers maintain affiliate relationships with child care providers or children's activities programs. There are also on-site or near-site day care or schooling facilities established by some employers, which are aimed at shortening employees' commute time and allowing them to concentrate fully on their work. Contact your human resources team if your employer offer such resources.
Post-Secondary Child Care Grant Programs
The U.S. Department of Education runs a "Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program" to support low-income parents going back to college through campus-based child care services. There is also child care grant fund for eligible families, which can be used for your children's before and after school services.
If you are a full-time student, with a child under the age of 15, or if they are under 17 but has special education needs, you may be eligible to apply for student finance based on your household income. Refer to Child care Access Means Parents in School Pr0gram for more details including the way to enroll.
Other Supports for low cost or free child care
Some colleges and universities offer child care on campus. These programs may offer special discounts to students, faculty, and staff.
Native Hawaiian, Native Alaskan, and American Indian Programs
Tribal Child Care Financial Assistance Program
Many Tribal organizations receive federal government funding to support low income tribal families and ensure that they have access to quality child care and education. The National Indian Child Care Association is one that serves tribal communities across the country. Start and Early Head Start also conducts lots of programs that serve American Indian and Alaska Native children.
Child Care Assistance Program for Indigenous People of Hawai and Other Pacific Island
The Child Care Connection Hawaii (CCCH) subsidized child care program helps low income families pay their child care bills. This program provides up to 100% in financial assistance for 6 months. Visit the website of the Department of Human Services Hawaii for eligibility requirement details.
You should also check out PATCH for their subsidized child care facilities and preschool scholarship program.
Tax Credits and Support
Tax credits reduce the amount of tax you owe and may result in a tax refund. To claim tax credits, you need to meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if you have no other filing requirement or owe no income tax.
This credit is available to people who had to pay for child care for their children (younger than age 13) so they could work or look for work.
This tax credit helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break. If you qualify, you can use the credit to reduce the taxes you owe and possibly increase your refund.
This program provides free tax help to eligible low-income taxpayers. Speak with a tax specialist or visit https://www.irs.gov/ to learn more about these tax credits and more.
Free Online Resources for Pre-School and Kindergarten Parents
Now that you have all the resources on how to take your child care costs off your budget, you should have more headroom to look for ways to support your child's learning and development at home.
Do you know there are plenty of useful resources for pre-school and kindergarten parents/teachers that you can easily find online? The wonderful news is that a lot of them can be downloaded for FREE. Prekinders and Twinkl are two examples. From languages to math to science music and games, you are well covered as a parent. Subscribe as their free member and receive personalized educational resources for your children.
Worrying that your limited data plan does not support frequent web surfing and resource downloading? Or perhaps even considering getting your child an emergency phone for when they're away from you? How about claiming your FREE unlimited internet services for your cell phone or for your home through the Federal Government's Affordable Connectivity Program?
You may be eligible for free monthly unlimited internet services. In fact, over 40% of US households qualify for this program through EASY Wireless. When you qualify for this program, you can get FREE Talk, Text and Data every month. It only takes a few minutes to register and check if you qualify for this service.
To see if you qualify, just enter your email and zip code below and click "Enroll Now".
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