Quality childcare in the U.S. is shockingly expensive. For some families, sending your child to daycare can even cost more than renting an apartment. And in some states, annual childcare costs far surpass the price of college tuition.
Although childcare seems expensive, there might be more affordable options out there for you. If you are ready to explore the alternatives to paying for childcare, you might uncover ways that can assist you and help with childcare.
How much does daycare cost per month?
The federal definition of affordable child care includes daycare options that cost 7% or less than the annual household income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2021 was $69,717. Based on this, families would usually expect to pay approximately $4,880 per year, which works out to about $407 per month.
However, the actual national average of daycare costs is closer to $930 per month. Since daycare costs far exceed what is considered by the federal government to be affordable, this gap places an extreme financial burden on families who are in need of childcare assistance.
How to get help with childcare
There are a variety of resources available to parents who are trying to find help with childcare. Families may be eligible for certain federal-level or state-sponsored programs. Alternatively, they may want to take advantage of subsidies, tax credits and discounts. In most cases, your income usually impacts your eligibility.
Federal government childcare resources
There is an array of federally funded programs and solutions when it comes to childcare. While eligibility is based on household income, certain programs are tailored to specific groups of people, such as military members.
Government-funded childcare assistance
Low-income families may receive free daycare or financial assistance toward childcare via the federal government. Through funding provided to states and territories of the United States, eligible families may be able to receive vouchers, subsidies or certificates to help pay for childcare. Visit ChildCare.gov to find financial assistance in your specific state.
Head Start and Early Start programs
Head Start and Early Start programs provide childcare support for children from birth to the age of five. Both programs offer child services that support early development, learning and physical health. These programs are free for eligible, low-income families. Learn more about the program’s childcare assistance income guidelines by visiting Head Start.
Many states offer pre-kindergarten programs to prepare children between the ages of three and five for kindergarten. Eligible families might be able to take advantage of state-funded pre-kindergarten at little to no cost.
Military families can receive help when it comes to paying for childcare, no matter where they are stationed. Military parents who cannot access military-run childcare facilities due to waitlists or distance issues may be eligible to apply for other forms of assistance through their respective branches of service or state-funded programs.
Military families can find affordable childcare options for children from six weeks old to 17 years of age. Families might also be eligible for fee assistance programs through the Department of Defense as well.
Tax credits for childcare
Tax credits are designed to help families defray the costs of raising and providing care for their children. Different from deductions, tax credits can reduce the amount that you owe. And if the credit is refundable, you can still get your money back even if you don’t owe any taxes.
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) helps working families offset the rising costs of childcare and dependent care. The CDCTC is calculated based on your income, as well as a percentage of care expenses incurred, so that you can go to work, look for work or attend school while receiving assistance with childcare.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) raised the Child Tax Credit to $4,000 for one qualifying person and up to $8,000 for two or more qualifying persons. In some cases, the CDCTC may be refundable as well.
Child Tax Credit
The Child Tax Credit may be available to parents with eligible children who are younger than 18 years old. Under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Child Tax Credit was raised to $3,600 for children under six. The credit for children who are six years or older was increased to $3,000 as well.
Under the ARP, 100% of the tax credit is refundable. Since the credit is subtracted from the taxes that you owe, a refundable tax credit is like making a payment. So, if the amount of the Child Tax Credit is more than the taxes that are due, you will receive a refund for that amount.
After 2021, the Child Tax Credit is expected to return to $2,000. Additionally, only 70% of the credit will be refundable.
Earned income credit
The earned income credit (EIC) helps to supplement the wages of low-income taxpayers. Based on your income, filing status and the number of qualifying dependents who rely on you, it might be possible for you to be eligible for a refundable tax credit ranging from $560 to $6,935 on your 2022 tax return.
State dependent care tax credit
If you pay state tax, you may be eligible for a tax credit or tax deduction to help offset the costs of childcare. There are 29 states that offer a dependent care tax credit or a tax deduction from certain childcare expenses.
For example, parents in Minnesota can claim a state dependent care tax credit that is equal to the federal child and dependent care tax credit, though this is subject to childcare income limits. Oregon offers a Working Family Household and Dependent Care Credit for low- to moderate-income families to help them pay for the costs of childcare.
State and local government resources
Many state and local governments offer childcare assistance through various social service agencies. You can check with your state’s Department of Human Services to see if they provide financial assistance, such as subsidies or co-pays. Families in states like California may be eligible for childcare assistance if they participate in certain county-approved activities.
Some local and county governments may provide childcare assistance through community action agency programs. You should also check with charities and churches in your area to see if they provide help paying childcare expenses as well.
Work and school childcare resources
Check with your employer to see if they offer any childcare benefits. If you are a student at a college or a university, you may be eligible for discounted childcare if your school provides these services to students who are also parents.
Flexible spending accounts
If your employer offers Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), you may be able to put aside a portion of your paycheck to pay for childcare services. The funds you set aside are not subject to payroll taxes. So, the FSA lets you take home more money from your paycheck.
Employer discounts and sponsored programs
Some employers may offer onsite childcare services for their employees’ children. In other cases, nearby childcare programs may offer exclusive discounts to employees of certain companies.
Colleges and universities
Some colleges and universities provide childcare services. As such, students, staff and faculty members might be eligible for discounted childcare.
Some childcare centers offer a sibling discount to families with more than one child who is in need of care. Some childcare centers will offer a discount if you refer other family members for childcare as well.
Childcare resources for military and native families
Several programs exist to help military families find affordable childcare in the areas they are stationed in as well as financial assistance when military childcare options have long waiting lists. Native American families can also find childcare centers and receive financial assistance through a host of federal and state programs.
Military families can search for military-run childcare programs worldwide through MCC via MiliaryChildCare.com. Military parents can enroll their children in military-run childcare programs by submitting a request through the site. Fees are based on family income.
Tribal childcare financial assistance
The federal government typically provides childcare grants and other financial assistance to tribes and tribal organizations alike. You can also find more information about Tribal Child Care and Development Funds (CCDF). Additionally, various Head Start programs are offered to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN).
Hawaii offers financial assistance programs for children of Indigenous People of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands through its PATCH program.
Native Hawaiian, American Indian and Alaska Native families may be eligible for tuition assistance programs for children up to 12 years old through the Hawaii Early Learning Partnership program, also known as HELP.
Finding help for childcare
Working parents often experience a lot of shock when they discover the costs of caring for their children. The high cost of care causes extreme financial stress on many families, especially when it comes to household budgets.
However, there might be resources available to you for the sake of reducing your costs of childcare. Many of these resources are limited based on how much money you make, but if you qualify, these options can save your family a lot of money.
Where can a single parent get help with childcare?
A single parent might be able to get help with childcare through federal subsidies, state-run early learning programs and tax credits. A single parent may also find financial help with childcare through their employer or various community organizations that apply to them.
How much does the government pay for childcare?
The amount of money that the government puts towards childcare varies based on family income and the number of dependents in each family.
Can a family member get paid for childcare?
While a family member can be paid for childcare, you may face limitations when it comes to claiming a tax credit if the person is your spouse or someone you also claim as a dependent. You could also be denied a tax credit if you are paying the parent of the qualifying dependent, who is also your child.