No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You're going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You'll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you'll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It's the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can't afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can't afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to $500 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER's assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper's plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to $1,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. "The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families," said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. "Let's say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don't automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost."
AER's CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of $275 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses."Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army," Gen. Mason said. "Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station."
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