Paying for Child Care
Financial aid and tax relief plans help families pay for child care.
The cost of child care depends on your child’s age, type of program, and program’s location.
Financial aid programs and tax credits may help you pay for child care in Minnesota. These include the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), Early Learning Scholarships, and credits and deductions on your income tax.
You can call 888.291.9811 for help. Or, you can use Bridge to Benefit’s free financial aid screening tool to see if you might be eligible for help.
Financial Aid Programs
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
Families may be eligible to receive CCAP benefits if:
- They have a low income. This includes families currently or recently in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and those who have never received cash assistance.
- They have children ages 12 and younger or children with special needs who are ages 14 and younger that need child care.
- They need help paying for child care to work, look for work, or attend school or training.
This program pays a portion of families’ child care costs to the family’s child care provider. Families must use a legal provider. There may be a waiting list for assistance in some counties for families that haven’t recently received cash assistance.
You can apply for child care assistance at your tribal or county human services office. Once you apply for CCAP, a child care worker will determine your eligibility and help you understand the program.
For more information about the Child Care Assistance Program, visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services website.
Early Learning Scholarships
Families meeting income eligibility requirements and who have a child between the ages of 3 and 4 – and in some cases children younger than 3 – who choose a program with a Parent Aware Rating or one that will earn a Rating within six months.
Scholarships help families afford high-quality child care and early education programs. Most families can receive up to $8,500 per scholarship annually when parents choose a qualifying program. Some families in special circumstances can receive up to $12,000.
For more information call Parent Aware at 888.291.9811, contact your local scholarship administrator, or visit the Early Learning Scholarships page on the Minnesota Department of Education website.
Note: Starting July 1, 2024, Early Learning Scholarships – Pathway I can only be used at programs with a Three- or Four-Star Rating.
Minnesota Postsecondary Child Care Grant Program
Students with low incomes who have children under age 12 in child care (or age 14 for special needs children) while they attend postsecondary classes.
Grants for part-time or full-time student parents continuing their education after high school.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a separate application for this program from your college’s financial aid office. More information is available on the Minnesota Office of Higher Education website.
Families with a parent or guardian on active duty in the National Guard or the Army Reserve. To be eligible, families must receive child care assistance and must not live on or near a military base.
Additional financial aid from the U.S. Army for families in the Child Care Assistance Program.
After being approved for the Child Care Assistance Program, you can call Child Care Aware of America at 800.424.2246 or visit the Army Fee Assistance website for more information about this program.
Tax Relief Plans and Credits
Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP)
Parents whose employers offer a Dependent Care Assistance Plan. This plan is sometimes called a Flexible Spending Account or a Pre-Tax Dollars Account.
Employers may choose to set aside up to $5,000 annually from employee paychecks to help pay for child care. That amount is not subject to income tax. Employees must provide documentation of child care expenses.
You can ask your employer if they offer a Dependent Care Assistance Plan and how to enroll.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
Families who pay child care expenses for children under age 13 and qualify for the credit. Even families that don’t pay any taxes may qualify for a refund of the state credit, but they must file tax returns.
The Child and Dependent Care Credit is both a federal and state credit that is available if filers paid for someone to care for their child or other household services. The amount of the credit depends on how much they earn. The care or services must be needed for them to work or look for work.
You can apply for tax credits on your annual Minnesota and Federal tax returns. The credits reduce the amount of tax owed. The Minnesota credit may also increase the amount of a refund. For more information, visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Child Care and Dependent Care Credit page or call 800.652.9094.
Federal Earn Income Credit and the Minnesota Working Family Credit
Families that file Minnesota and Federal tax returns. Even families that don’t pay any taxes may qualify, but they must file tax returns.
The Earned Income Credit and Minnesota Working Family Credit are for working families with low incomes. These credits reduce the amount of federal and state tax that they owe. Families must meet certain eligibility requirements to claim the credit.
You can apply for tax credits on your annual Minnesota and Federal tax returns. For more information, visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Working Family Credit page or call 800.652.9094.
Tax Filing Assistance
From February 1 through April 15, trained volunteers are available at sites around Minnesota to help families with their tax preparation. For more information and to see if you qualify for help, call 800.657.3989 or visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Free Tax Preparation Help page.