Military families in high cost-of-living areas who pay for off-base child care started receiving a larger Defense Department subsidy last month thanks to a spending cap increase and policy change.
Military families who live far away from on-base child care centers or who are wait-listed can receive subsidies to pay for off-base civilian care up to a certain dollar amount.
For Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps families, as well as families with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the cap had been $1,100. Army families, who receive their subsidy under a separately run service program, can receive up to $1,500.
Family out-of-pocket costs are based on the price they would pay if they received care on base. The subsidy programs are managed through contracts with the company Child Care Aware.
Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps families were notified in the middle of last month by Child Care Aware that their subsidy cap would increase to $1,300 per month.
"In 2019, the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and NGA have decided to expand the high-cost designation to additional areas and Military/DoD Sponsors throughout the country, and they have also increased the full-time high-cost community provider cap from $1,100/month to $1,300/month," states a letter sent to families and obtained by Military.com. "If you have received this letter, you have been identified as being eligible for high-cost fee assistance processing."
It was not immediately clear how many families would receive the increased subsidy.
"Providing an increase in community-based fee assistance positively impacts the economic viability of our airmen and their families while ensuring their children are cared for in safe, quality programs," Carrie Volpe, an Air Force spokesperson, said in an email.
Officials with the Marine Corps and Navy did not respond by deadline to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, a change starting March 1 to the Army child care subsidy eligibility rules means the funding will be available to fewer users.
In the past, the service's subsidy was available to both active-duty soldiers and Army civilian employees. Starting March 1, however, the program will not accept most new Army civilian applicants.
Child and Youth Services staff, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve Military Technicians, and most Expeditionary Civilian Workforce employees are still eligible for coverage. Army civilian employees who are currently using the subsidy will also be grandfathered in under previous eligibility rules, according to a Child Care Aware announcement.
"The rebalance of Army Child Care Fee Assistance provides a balanced focus on Army families and ensures access to quality child care so soldiers can concentrate on their mission, while freeing up resources for other high-priority Army programs," Scott Malcom, an Army spokesman, said in a statement.
Army officials plan to announce additional changes to family programs at a Feb. 5 event, which will be livestreamed by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA).
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.