Paying for Child Care
Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship
Child care is expensive. We’re here to help.
Child Care Resources administers Montana’s Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship program to help families with lower incomes cover the cost of quality child care. If you are working or attending school and fall below the income limits listed below, you might be eligible for this assistance.
More parents qualify for scholarships than you might expect.
Maximum gross monthly income limits for the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship:
- 2-person household $2,686
- 3-person household $3,386
- 4-person household $4,085
- 5-person household $4,785
- 6-person household $5,485
If you qualify for the scholarship program, you will pay a copayment based on your household size and gross monthly income, instead of paying the full cost of child care.
Some temporary modifications to the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship rules and procedures are currently in place as a result of funding approved under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. This includes an increase to maximum income limits for the program, $10 per month copayments per scholarship family, and increased coverage of absences for children authorized under the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship. There is no better time to apply than right now!
How to apply, your way.
If you don’t have a personal computer, prefer to have a paper application mailed to you or simply have questions, we are here to help! Call us at 406.728.6446 to get an application or talk to a caseworker. You are also welcome to stop by our office at 500 N. Higgins Ave., Suite 202, in Missoula at any time, no appointment needed!
If you would like assistance with the application process, have any questions or want other resources, please contact an eligibility specialist at 406.532.8326 or email Emma Young.
Click here for more information, including the state’s basic eligibility requirements for the Montana program and a link to the sliding fee scale.
FAQ: We know the process can be daunting. Let us help.
What are the program’s work / school requirements?
If you are not receiving TANF benefits, the scholarship requirements vary based on the following:
- Single-parent household, not attending school, must work a minimum of 60 hours a month, or about 15 hours per week average.
- Two-parent household, neither parent attending school, must work a minimum of 120 hours per month, or about 30 hours per week between both adults.
- If you are attending school part or full time, please contact us for eligibility requirements.
How much will my copayment be?
As a result of temporary pandemic funding, all of the families who qualify for the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship will see their copayments set to $10 per month. When pandemic recovery funding ends, copayments will again be determined based on a family’s gross monthly income and family size, and will be between 1% and 14% of your monthly income before deductions such as taxes or benefits. The copayment is a monthly payment that is paid directly to your licensed child care provider. All copayments must be received by the child care provider in order for eligibility to continue at the time of your annual renewal.
What does the scholarship cover?
The Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship is meant to supplement the cost of child care and will not cover your entire child care bill. Any amount that is not paid by the scholarship is the responsibility of the parent. This will include your copayment amount, and the difference between the state reimbursement rates and your child care provider’s rates when your provider charges over and above the state rates. Parent financial responsibility may also include days your child care provider bills for holidays, vacation or sick days when it is closed. Click here for more information on state reimbursement rates, or contact your caseworker.
What is the child support requirement?
In Montana, in order to qualify for child care assistance when there is a child in the household who has an absent parent, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- Have an open child support case through Montana Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED), and be in compliance with CSED, whether or not payments are received.
- Have a parenting plan approved through the courts and signed by a judge (temporary eligibility may be granted while you are in the process of completing the parenting plan process).
- Verifiable good cause for not pursuing child support. Good cause exemptions are approved in cases where there is a risk of harm to either you or your child if you were to seek child support from the absent parent, or in cases of rape or incest. Please talk to a caseworker or the Family Engagement Coordinator if you think you may qualify for this exemption.
How long is an eligibility period?
A typical eligibility period for the child care scholarship is one year from the month in which you apply, but there are some circumstances that may make the eligibility period shorter. When you are approved, you will be sent a notice that tells you the dates that you are eligible for assistance.
How do I know if I’m approved and what is approved?
When you are approved, you will be mailed a notice that tells you the dates you are approved for assistance, what your monthly copayment amount is, and the hours of child care that have been authorized under your child care scholarship.
What changes need to be reported during my eligibility?
Any time you have a change in your work or school status or a change of address you must report the change within 10 business days. If you have a job loss, a grace period is available with a reduced copayment while you look for work.
A change in child care provider must be reported within at least one business day in order to avoid a lapse in payment to your new child care provider. Changes cannot be backdated and will start the day the caseworker is notified.
Where can I find additional forms like the Work Verification or School / Training Verification?
Supplemental forms can be found here. Please talk to your caseworker if you have questions about which forms are needed for your situation.