Marylanders will now have an easier time applying for the state’s child care Scholarship program with a new fast-track application process and family portal.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has made significant changes to the Child Care Scholarship (CCS) program that are set to expedite the application process for eligible families. The CCS program helps eligible families in Maryland pay for high-quality child care and early education programs. New to the application process are the Fast Track Application process and the Family Portal.
The new, expedited application became available on July 1, 2023. The new process grants temporary eligibility determination to eligible applicants within three business days of applying. Eligible families will receive 60 days of temporary child care assistance under the CCS program and will be provided with a pathway to a full, 52-week Child Care Scholarship. Recipients of a 60-day scholarship will have 15 calendar days to complete the remainder of CCS application process to be considered for a 52-week scholarship. Prior to the fast-track process, families would have to wait up to 35 days for their application to be fully processed to receive assistance.
The updated application and streamlined process are in response to the passage of EHB 995 — Early Childhood Development – Child Care Scholarship Program – Alterations and Study, during the 2022 legislative session. That bill required MSDE to establish a process for granting presumptive eligibility for a subsidy under the CCS Program. The presumptive eligibility determination is based on self-attestation by the applicant. Applicants must provide proof of residency and employment or enrollment in a training/education program to submit a fast-track CCS application.
If eligible, Scholarships are available for:
- a child who is younger than 13 or
- an individual 13-19 years old who has a qualifying disability.
The CCS program is funded through a combination of state and federal sources and provides child care financial assistance to families who meet the program’s income eligibility requirements and are working, attending school, and/or attending an approved training program.
The Family Portal
In addition to a faster application process, MSDE has also implemented a one-stop digital platform for the CCS called the Family Portal. The portal provides an efficient online system that allows families to check their eligibility, complete the application, upload documents, check their application status, receive messages and alerts, receive personalized support, and access their benefits.
The Family Portal went live in February 2023 and is available in English and Spanish (and provides support for several other languages). According to MSDE, since its launch, the portal has taken in more than 5,300 applications and registered 16,000 families. The Department explained the portal’s importance in a press release:
Prior to the portal, families were required to fill out a seven-page application and mail it to MSDE to apply for the CCS. The application process alone would take weeks to finalize, and it would be difficult for applicants to identify if additional information was needed for processing and receiving scholarship funds. The portal allows for more control over the CCS program with a smart application that directs applicants to exactly what needs to be filled out and what documents need to be uploaded for processing. The faster service has resulted in more families across the state gaining access to high-quality and affordable child care.
At the 2023 MACo Summer Conference general session, “Embracing Without Spacing: Pre-K Expansion and Early Childhood Education,” an esteemed panel of education leaders and policy experts will discuss the opportunities and challenges counties face to expand universal pre-K. From unexpected obstacles like a limited workforce, supply chain, and construction disruptions to new budgetary considerations and a jarring lack of dedicated space for early education teaching, this panel will tackle some of the pressing considerations of Pre-K expansion and the counties’ role in ensuring all Maryland children can access quality early childhood education.
Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: