Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship Program

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Updates and Expanded Eligibility for the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship, Effective June 1, 2021 

For families currently participating in the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship

  • To support families in meeting their co-payment obligations, all Best Beginnings families will see their co-pays set to $10 per month 
  • To support families and the various scheduling needs that may arise, the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship will cover the full amount of scheduled care, regardless of attendance 

For families that need help paying for child care

  • Montana's sliding fee scale now expands eligibility to more families (Policies go into effect June 1, 2021, and are based on the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act federal funding)
  • Income eligibility has been increased to serve additional families

About the Program

The Early Childhood Services Bureau offers Best Beginnings child care scholarships to qualified low-income families whose child receives care from a licensed child care center, licensed group or family child care home, or Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care provider. Each family participates in the cost of that care by making a copayment based on a sliding fee scale. Scholarships are available to working families whose income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and families who get cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

The program helps to pay for care when parents are not available to care for their children:

  • During working hours;
  • During school or training hours, if meeting work requirements;
  • If they are a teen parent attending high school; or
  • If they are a parent receiving TANF who is participating in family investment agreement activities.

Child care scholarships are available if the applicant is a working caretaker relative with children receiving TANF child-only grants.

Sliding Fee Scale

The Early Childhood Services Bureau is pleased to announce the update of the existing Sliding Fee Scale used for eligibility determination. This updates eligibility based on the 2021 Federal Poverty Index, and may change the rate of co-payment calculation based on the income and family size. Please contact your Child Care Resource and Referral Agency with questions.

How to Apply

Eligibility Criteria

Families who are working and earning less than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level are eligible. Family income is evaluated for eligibility and a co-payment is determined based on the Child Care Sliding Fee Scale. Effective June 1, 2021, co-payments are set at ten dollars ($10) per eligible family. 

Parents must be participating in eligible activities:

  • Two-parent families shall work at least 120 hours per month.
  • Single-parent families shall work at least 60 hours per month.
  • Single parent or two-parent families in which all of the parents attend school/training full time, do not have to meet a work requirement.
  • Single parent or two-parent families in which one or more of the parents attend school/training part time shall meet a work requirement that takes into account the education/training.
  • Teen parents must be attending high school or a high school equivalency program.

Child care assistance is authorized for the parent(s) to attend work/school/training.

TANF Families

Families receiving TANF Cash assistance may receive a Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship while participating in their Family Investment Agreement. TANF participants must contact their Child Care Resource and Referral agency to receive child care benefits.

Tribal Families

Tribal families are dually eligible for child care assistance under both the Tribal CCDF Block Grant program and Montana Child Care Scholarship program. Families, who find they are not eligible for Tribal Block Grant Child Care, or find their Tribal Block Grant Child Care funding has been used, must demonstrate their Tribal Block Grant will not serve them before a Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship will be approved.

Child Support

In non-TANF households where one or both parents are absent from the home, the parent or guardian with whom the child resides must cooperate with Child Support Enforcement Division, have a court-approved parenting plan in place, be receiving court-ordered child support, or have been approved by their local CCR&R to have good cause for not cooperating with Child Support Enforcement.

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