COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine restrictions have led to an increased need for childcare, especially for Soldiers and their Families. According to the National Military Family Association (NMFA), 40 percent of service members have children, 38 percent are under the age of 5 and 70 percent are under the age of 12. Yet, obtaining childcare can sometimes be expensive or complicated, leading Spouses to stay home instead of working and experiencing financial hardship as a result.
To help alleviate this financial impact, Army Emergency Relief partnered with NMFA for the second year in a row, providing an additional $2 million towards their Child Care Fee Relief program. The program delivers childcare relief through reimbursements of up to $1500 to thousands of eligible servicemembers and their Families that can be used for before or after-school care, childcare, private caregivers, and certain registration fees for camps.
The Air Force Aid Society has also contributed to NMFA’s program, dedicating $1 million in support of Air Force and Space Force Families. NMFA’s Executive Director Besa Pinchotti described finding childcare to be “an ongoing crisis for Families,” but reaffirms that the organization sees the need and is committed to assisting. “We couldn’t do much alone,” she said.
“That’s when we knew that we needed to reach out and find some partners. That’s how we got in touch with AER and Air Force Aid Society. We were able to help so many more Families together.”
As the pandemic exacerbates the challenges our Army Families must face, AER will continue to step up to support them through their service. We were able to award 1354 Army Families nearly $2 million in child care relief reimbursements this year.
Unfortunately, the deadline for NMFA has already passed as applications closed on May 14, 2021. The program has been set to notify those eligible for funds by December 15 in the form of email notifications and phone calls. If your Family is selected, you’ll be required to provide confirmation of military service, childcare receipts, proof of employment, and/or verification of school enrollment, depending on your situation.
But if you missed the deadline, childcare assistance is still available year-round to Army, Air Force and Space Force Families through the relief societies. AER and AFAS are still providing assistance for childcare assistance any time of year – Just Ask.
For Army Families impacted by COVID-19, AER continues to offer grants-only childcare assistance. This category of support is designed to help parents of school-aged children – 12 years of age or under – with unexpected childcare costs as a result of reduced capacity in Child Development Centers and Childcare Centers. To be eligible for AER childcare assistance, Spouses must be working or seeking a college degree or professional certification, reentering the workforce after being laid off due to COVID-19, or looking for work while the Soldier is deployed.
Those eligible to apply include:
- Active-Duty Soldiers
- Retired Soldiers (medically & longevity, including Army Reserve and National Guard receiving retired pay)
- Surviving Spouses
- Army Reserve (USAR) and National Guard (ARNG) Soldiers activated on Title 10 orders for 31 or more consecutive days
- USAR and ARNG Soldiers activated on Title 10 or Title 32 orders in support of COVID-19 (regardless of length of activation)
How to apply? Assistance requests are processed by your local AER officer. Use our Office Locator tool to find your nearest AER Office.
AFAS has two main childcare programs:
- “Give Parents a Break” is intended to provide funding for monthly care breaks from the stress of parenting.
- “Child Care for PCS” is intended to help relieve the inherent stress associated with the PCS moving process.
Additionally, AFAS has made vast improvements to create more accessible help as a result of the pandemic. For instance, they’ve increased the number of grants as opposed to interest-free loans they’ve provided. In the past, only 20 percent of assistance offered was in the form of grants, but this year, grants composed of 40 percent of assistance provided.
AFAS has also extended their childcare programs to Airmen, Guardians, and their Spouses alike – regardless of status. Some of the new childcare assistance programs include a $250 grant for new childcare and a $3000 grant over five years for anything that could improve conditions for children with special needs.
How to apply? Visit your Airman & Family Readiness Center to inquire about how these programs work, discover which options are available to you at your base and request a certificate to participate. You can utilize the Locations page on the AFAS website to find a center near you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.