DALLAS Free child care is available for some Texas for an entire year. However, many parents who qualify for the state-funded program don’t know about it and the deadline is Friday, March 25.

The help offered by the Texas Workforce Commission benefits low-income parents who work in the service industry. 

The Service Industry Recovery (SIR) Child Care Program aims to help eligible employees in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries, as well as those working in accommodations, food services and retail trades, who primarily operate in close quarters with their customers and can’t work remotely. 

Once qualified, parents may use the funds immediately via the accredited child care provider of their choice.  

Desoto resident Deshanae McKnight was surprised when she learned she was eligible for the assistance in February.  

“I was stunned I had to ask a couple of times,” said McKnight. “I couldn’t believe it would be free for a whole year. It’s just been a huge relief because you know you got to pay money for everything.” 

ChildCareGroup's CEO and President Tori Mannes sits with children at the organization's West Dallas Center where care is provided for children six weeks to five years old and expectant mothers. (Spectrum News 1/Lupe Zapata)

She just got a job working as a chef at a Denny’s restaurant and says not having to stress about paying a day care for her two-year-old and one-year-old children has been “a weight lifted off her shoulders.” 

In North Texas, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas administers the program. The nonprofit organization ChildCareGroup is the program provider. 

“Parents can’t work if quality child care is too expensive or difficult to access,” said ChildCareGroup’s CEO and President Tori Mannes. “Our local employers can’t keep their businesses going if they don’t have employees or their employees are distracted by child care problems. We want to alleviate that problem.” 

Mannes said the SIR program supports both front-line workers and business owners in an industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic.  

“But time is of the essence,” said Mannes, “because this program is going to close soon for enrollment, so families need to enroll by Friday March 25 and have their child enrolled in a child care center by Thursday, March 31.” 

With the deadline approaching soon, Mannes wants to see employers educate themselves about the program as well. 

“They need to let their employees know about this program,” said Mannes. “This assistance can be a tremendous solution to their child care needs and we want these parents to get enrolled as soon as possible.” 

To receive funding, participants must enroll in SIR by March 31. 

“The program is open to a wide range of service industry employees, not just hospitality workers,” said Mannes “Parents shouldn’t make assumptions about their eligibility — they can visit our website to find out more about income guidelines and whether or not their job qualifies them for assistance.” 

Since enrolling in the program, McKnight is saving over $600 a month on day care. She plans to save up to start a food truck business she’s dreamed of operating out of a mobile home for years.

“I don’t want to put my kids through what I’ve been through,” said McKnight. “I want to show them something different, so they can do different and then show the kids behind them something different. Our kids are the future, and we have to do right by them.” 

Desoto resident Deshanae McKnight and Spectrum News 1 Human Interest reporter Lupe Zapata have a conversation about McKnight's dream of becoming a business owner. McKnight believes in the power of manifesting destiny and says opening a food truck business "isn't a matter of if, but when." (Spectrum News 1/Lupe Zapata)

More about the SIR Child Care Program:

Who is eligible?

Up to 12 months of free child care subsidies are available for those working in: 

  • Accommodation and food service (such as hotels, restaurants and food delivery services) 
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation (such as fitness centers, movie theaters and amusement parks) 
  • Retail (such as clothing stores, gas stations and grocery stores) 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Employees must work at least 25 hours a week for a single-parent family, and 50 hours (combined) for a two-parent family. 
  • Employees must meet income guidelines, which are available on the ChildCareGroup website. (A qualifying family of four, for example, must have an annual pre-tax income of $64,043 or below.) 

 Required documentation:

  • Applicants must submit documentation verifying employment with a qualified employer (typically, anything with the employer’s name, address, and information about your employment will work). 
  • Verification that the child (not the parent) is a US citizen or legal immigrant.  

How to find out more:

To receive funding, participants must be enrolled in the program by March 31. Visit childcaregroup.org/SIR or call 214-630-7911 to learn more. Spanish-language help is available. 

If you have an interesting story, or an issue you’d like to see covered, let us know about it.  

Share your ideas with DFW Human Interest Reporter Lupe Zapata by e-mailing him at Lupe.Zapata@Charter.com ​