Struggling to find workable childcare in five of the largest military communities in the United States? The Department of Defense is creating a pilot program to offer fee assistance for in-home care. As with all things DoD, there are a myriad number of requirements and rules to follow.
First things first: No date has been announced for the start of this program. The program will be administered by a third-party company that has not yet been identified. This falls solidly in the “hope for the best and plan for the worst” category. Child care is too important to make any plans based on when this program may start. Participation in this pilot program is likely to be a matter of a bunch of things lining up in exactly the right order.
Who Is Eligible?
For starters, you must be registered with MilitaryChildCare.com, and on the waiting list for childcare in one of these five regions:
- San Diego, California
- Norfolk, Virginia
- National Capital Region aka Washington DC area
- San Antonio, Texas
- Hawaii (apparently anywhere)
If you live in one of these regions, and you’re not on the list, register now.
Then, you must be in one of these priority groups:
- Single or dual active-duty members
- Single or dual Guard or reserve members on active duty orders
- Active-duty members with a full-time working spouse
- Guard or reserve members on active duty orders, with a full-time working spouse
- Active-duty members with a spouse enrolled in a postsecondary institution on a full-time basis
- Guard or reserve members on active duty orders, with a spouse enrolled full-time in a postsecondary educational institution
Participants in this pilot program will be selected based on the sponsor’s priority and the date that care was requested.
Rules About Who Can Provide The Care
This part is going to be tough for many families. In busy areas, there is a shortage of childcare altogether – not just spots in child care centers. This program has very specific rules about who can provide the childcare, and the citizenship requirements eliminate au pair programs from qualifying.
- Be U.S. Citizens
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Hold a high school diploma or equivalent
- Read, speak and write English
- Complete 32 hours of training on child care issues
- Pass the following background checks: FBI fingerprint-based criminal history, state criminal history, state child abuse and neglect repository, and state sex offender registry
How Much Is The Assistance
Fee assistance will be provided for between thirty and sixty hours of care each week.
The amount of fee assistance will vary based upon these factors:
- The fee a family would pay if receiving care on the installation (based on total family income)
- The monthly rate charged by the in-home provider
- The maximum monthly amount of fee assistance per child based on total family income
I am very interested to see how this formula is calculated. One of the attractions of in-home care for families with multiple children is that the cost per child frequently goes down dramatically. How the formula works is going to make a big difference in the net cost for these families.
In-home child care comes with a whole new set of tax issues. In-home child care providers are considered employees by the Internal Revenue Service, and therefore, the parents/employers must pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for those employees. (Side note: many families use a service to handle payroll for them. I would.) The yet-to-be-identified program administrator is supposed to help families with the tax-related issues with this program.
As far as I can tell, Congress has not yet decided whether the fee assistance will be taxable income. This could be an issue for families who are juggling other tax concerns.
Existing Child Care Assistance Programs
The Department of Defense currently offers three ways to assist with obtaining and paying for child care. Unfortunately, the ways that help keep the costs down often have long waits.
The existing programs are:
- The on-base child development centers
- The fee assistance administered by ChildCareAware.org
- Child care search assistance through Military OneSource
The pilot program will run for one year, after which the program will be evaluated and the results used to plan further child care support programs, including possibly expanding the program.