GREAT FALLS, Mont. - If you're a working parent looking for childcare this summer vacation, eligible families could get up to $2,000 per kid under a state scholarship that launched Monday.
If you have children between the first and fifth grade, the Elementary Out of School Time Child Care Scholarship helps cover a variety of programs, on top of licensed childcare.
With the right documents, this can include summer camps, nannies and even care from a relative or neighbor. "They may need to show the enrollment form or if its with a family member or friend, that person could just write a letter explaining that they will be caring for the child," said Lori Cereck, the communications director at Family Connections.
With no income requirements, cereck tells Montana Right Now this gives qualifying families more options and flexibility for their own situations.
"A family may often have two or three children, and they have to weigh what they're going to make working versus what it's going to cost them for childcare," she said.
Families paid between $8,400 and $9,500 for childcare in 2020 alone, according to Kids Count Montana, with affordability being an issue for many since at least 2016. However, new policies aim on tackling costs during the pandemic.
"Some families who wouldn't have qualified for childcare used to be 150% of the poverty level. Now it's 185%," said Cereck.
Lori says those changes and this scholarship give families one less thing to worry about, while helping parents focus on working.
"When parents are able to go to work and support their families, they have less stress, they feel good about themselves,” she said. “It's better for our community because we have parents working, paying taxes. It's better for the businesses who need employees who are able to show up."
This program isn't a regular yearly thing, but Cereck says she encourages any and all families to take advantage of it while they can.
It only takes a few minutes to apply for this scholarship, and you can send applications online until June 18th.