Families Can Get Help to Pay for Child Care Using Subsidies

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Posted by Rachael Tom

For many families, access to child care is critical to parents’ ability to work outside the home and support themselves. High-quality child care can be an important place for young children to develop their social and learning skills.

While searching and matching for child care is completely free on Carina, some working families may struggle to afford child care. Fortunately, there are programs to help with the cost.

Federally Funded Programs

Lower-income families can get help from federally funded state programs. Nearly every  provider on Carina’s child-care referral service accepts subsidy vouchers from these programs as payment. 

Many states have different requirements based on state residency, family income, children’s age, children’s citizenship status, and parents’ employment or student status. 

You can find eligibility information on programs in Washington, California, Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts at these links or search for another state at this link.

Programs may be full when you apply, but you can be placed on a waiting list and begin to receive benefits when a spot becomes available.

Many state program websites have a co-payment or family share chart, where you can see how much parents pay if they qualify for aid. For example, in Washington, families that make up to 82% of the federal poverty level pay $15 a month for care, and those who make 82 to 137.5% of the federal poverty level pay $65 a month. Co-payment/family share information is here for Washington, California, Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts

To apply, please follow the instructions on these websites for Washington, California (contact county offices), Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Don’t know where to start? Many providers on Carina are experts at these programs. When you find a provider that you are interested in, a great next step is to message them and let them know that you are interested and would like to know more about their program.  They may be able to help you navigate the subsidy programs or point you in the direction while you determine if the site is right for you and your family.

Military Programs

Parents who are military members can also get help from their specific branch.  Visit Child Care Aware of America to find out the requirements for your branch or agency. Also, there may be military or veterans’ programs in your geographic area: For example, veterans in King County, WA, may be eligible for this program.

Local Government Assistance Programs

Local governments sometimes have child care assistance programs such as these for residents of  Seattle and San Francisco. Check with local governments to find information about programs in other areas.

A family’s special circumstances can also qualify families for programs, such as these for families experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts and in King and Pierce counties in Washington for families experiencing homelessness

College and University Assistance Programs

Many colleges and universities offer financial assistance for child care for parents who are students. Some states have statewide programs for students, like this one in California. There’s also a program for parents who are full-time students in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in Washington. In Massachusetts, the funds are issued through the Executive Office of Education. If you’re attending college or university, check with your individual institution to see what aid is available.   

Additional Assistance

Another source of financial relief for families paying for child care is the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. When you file taxes, use IRS Form 2441.

Also, if you have access to a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account through work, you can put aside up to $10,500 pre-tax dollars to pay for child care. Because of the tax savings of this account, you cannot claim this money on IRS Form 2441 toward the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, but if you spend more than $10,500 annually, you can claim the amount over $10,500 toward the tax credit.

One other thing that isn’t specific to child care, but can help families find the money they need, is the Child Tax Credit. For more information on that, including the expansions to the credit under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, please see the IRS website

Even if you still aren’t sure what you may qualify for, be sure to check out Carina, where you can search and match with a qualified, nurturing provider at no cost. From there, feel free to ask your provider if they know about the programs in your area!

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