Soldiers and their families who move to a new duty station may be eligible for up to $1,500 in financial assistance for child care, under a new program.

Army Emergency Relief is launching the program Feb. 1. The assistance will be in the form of grants, no-interest loans or a combination of both. Soldiers may qualify for up to $500 per month per family for three consecutive months.

It’s based on financial need of the family.

Soldiers must be participating in the Army Fee Assistance program, and their child care costs for care in the civilian community must exceed the fee assistance they are receiving from the Army.

All the branches of services offer fee assistance programs for child care in the civilian community when on-base child care is not available or not a viable option. The programs provide subsidies that help make up the difference in cost between on-base child care and civilian child care. The Army program subsidy is the difference between what the soldier would pay for on-post child care and the community-based provider’s rate, up to a cap of $1,500 per child per month.

Military families have long faced problems in finding good, affordable child care in some areas. The idea for this assistance began in February, 2019 when Army Emergency Relief CEO Ray Mason, also a retired lieutenant general, heard a question about lack of available slots at Army child care facilities during a family forum at the Association of the U.S. Army.

Upon researching the issue, AER officials found that the average out-of-pocket costs to soldiers is $275 a month, after the $1,500 provided by the Army Fee Assistance program.

Here’s how the new AER program works, starting Feb. 1:

*Those eligible are active duty Army and Active Guard Reserve (AGR) soldiers with permanent change of station orders to an installation within the continental U.S.

*Approval is based on financial need. Assistance is up to $500 per month, per family — not per child, and it’s for no more than three consecutive months.

* To apply, soldiers should visit their installation’s Army Emergency Relief office. If the soldier is stationed at a base where there is no Army Emergency Relief office, the soldier can apply through the office of that installation’s military relief society – i.e., Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society.

*The first request must be submitted within the first 120 days after the family has arrived at the new duty station, and soldiers must provide documentation to verify the family’s arrival, such as the Dependent Travel Settlement document (DD Form 1351.)

*Soldiers most provide a certificate of participation in the Army Fee Assistance Program; and must provide a monthly billing statement of out-of-pocket child care expenses that are owed to the child care facility, above the Army Fee Assistance subsidy cap. In addition, the soldier must provide a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES); and copy of the PCS orders. If the soldier is not available, the spouse can apply with special power of attorney (AER Form 53 or civilian equivalent.)

Air Force Aid Society has long had a program to help alleviate some of the stress of families during a PCS move, said Linda Egentowich, a retired colonel and chief operating officer of that military relief society. The Child Care for PCS program provides 20 hours of child care at no cost to the Air Force member, that is available 60 days before leaving a base, as well as 60 days after arriving at a new base — for a possible 40 free hours. The care is provided by a certified family child care provider on base, or an affiliated Air Force-approved child care provider off base. The program is designed to help parents get ready for the packing and move; and to do things required to get settled after the move.

Those eligible are active duty Air Force members, including Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members activated under Title 10 orders for more than 15 days, who are on PCS orders. Airmen who are interested in this program can visit their Air Force Aid Society program in the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society doesn’t have a similar, specific program. However, that relief society “is a needs-base relief organization, so if a family needs financial assistance to cover child care costs, an eligible client can request assistance,” said spokeswoman Dawn Cutler, a retired rear admiral. Those eligible can request assistance at one of the 52 Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society offices, or through another military relief society, or the American Red Cross, she noted.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

In Other News
Load More