There are government, community and private solutions for free daycare and childcare assistance available to moderate and low-income families in nearly every state, territory and tribal region, even during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Here are just a few of the top resources available to families looking for free daycare and childcare assistance.
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For low-income parents who need childcare in order to work, or attend job training/school, a Federal block grant program called the Child Care Development Fund, or CCDF, offers a voucher subsidy program to pay for childcare. The program is federally funded, but administered by each state, territory or tribe. Those who qualify for CCDF assistance will receive a voucher to pay for childcare at CCDF-approved facilities. Each state, territory or tribe will have slightly different qualifications, but in general, parents or custodians must be able to prove they are low-income and the primary care-givers for children under the age of 13, or children under 19 if the child is incapable of self-care.
Head Start and Early Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start are free federally-funded programs serving low income children and families. Head Start serves families with children aged three and five years, and Early Head Start serves pregnant women and families with children under the age of three. The hours of operation for both programs vary by state, but many are available even in summer. Children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start will receive educational preparation for Kindergarten, as well as free healthy meals and snacks, and some medical and dental care. Openings for these programs may be limited.
To apply for Head Start or Early Head Start, parents need to use the Head Start Center Locator here to find their nearest provider, and contact them.
Many local YMCA’s offer free after-school programs to families that qualify. Each YMCA is independent, so programs and qualifications will vary. In Massachusetts, a governor’s order recently expanded the availability of childcare at Massachusetts YMCA to include regular school-hours for additional childcare relief for students studying remotely. Your nearest YMCA will have more information on what is available in your area, and can be located here.
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Many colleges and universities offer free or reduced-cost childcare for students attending their programs directly through the institution or through a state-sponsored subsidy. If you are attending a college or university program, contact your advisor to inquire about options.
Some of the best programs we’ve found that serve parents enrolled in college or university program are:
Child Care Aware
Child Care Aware can direct you to your nearest Child Care Resource & Referral, or CCR&R, organization. CCR&R’s act as a directing intermediary agent for parents in many states who are seeking free or reduced rate childcare. Most CCR&Rs are funded jointly by the city, county, or state; federal dependent-care funds, and charitable organizations. There are more than 300 CCR&R organizations nationwide, so parents in need of their help need to contact their nearest CCR&R. This information can be found through Child Care Aware’s search tool here.
Military families seeking childcare assistance are served by branch-specific organizations, which can also be found through Child Care Aware here.
Parents who make too much to qualify for other programs may get help covering childcare expenses through the Child Tax Credit or Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The Child Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit is worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child and $500 per qualifying dependent. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can reduce your tax liability by crediting 20% to 35% of up to $3,000 of childcare expenses for a child under the age of 13, an incapacitated spouse or parent, or another dependent so that you can work. You can qualify for one or both credits, and there is no application needed to apply. To qualify, you must file taxes following these guidelines for the Child Tax Credit here and The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit here.
Childcare resources are important
In a Fall 2020 Childcare Survey conducted by care.com, 90 percent of working parents reported that “access to quality, affordable child care is essential” for them to find and retain employment, placing even greater importance on the availability of these free and low-cast care and assistance programs. This list is by no means every program available. If you are in need of assistance, contact 2-1-1 for additional local resources.