NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Childcare costs continue plaguing Northwest Arkansas parents. That’s why the city of Fayetteville recently approved $1.5 million in ARPA funds to help struggling families.

Fayetteville’s childhood assistance program kicked off in December 2022. It started with $500,000 in ARPA funds. This month, the city council approved another $1.5 million for the program. Eligible recipients can be approved for up to 12 monthly payments for childcare assistance.

The payments go directly to the childcare facilities in Fayetteville. It’s available to families who live, work or go to school in the city and qualify based on income.

Fayetteville city council member Sarah Moore said childcare can be a family’s biggest expense, and things need to change to take the stress off working families. She’s hoping Fayetteville’s temporary help will make an impact on families.

“Instead of just giving them a little bit of a pause, this is a tremendous breather. We’ve actually gotten feedback from one of the participants that this is life-changing,” Moore said.

According to Moore, communities should be working more to help parents who are having a hard time. She said this can be done by evaluating childcare voucher programs, having employers look into on-site childcare and expanding Pre-K on a state level.

“We’re very lucky here locally at the University of Arkansas campus that they have childcare on site. So, there’s great partnerships that exist between educational learning environments,” Moore said.

Candice Holt is a Northwest Arkansas mom and her four-year-old daughter goes to a daycare in Springdale. Last year, she and her husband were paying $750 a month. Now, they’re paying $875 monthly.

She can’t imagine how people with low income or who have multiple kids in childcare afford it.

“We had considered having multiple children, but that’s definitely been a factor. You can’t really survive and pay twice that,” Holt said.

Parents are struggling, but they aren’t the only ones. Childcare facilities are having a hard time keeping up with staffing and demand in a growing community. Michelle Wynn, the co-director of Childcare Aware, said it’s hard to find quality employees to work.

Holt used to work in childcare, and she believes the staffing issue is due to low wages in the field. Wynn said due to a lack of childcare in the area, many families are having to be waitlisted, which can be costly.

“A lot of families need those dual incomes. It’s very expensive—especially having children,” Wynn said.

Holt was one of the parents who was waitlisted. When she first moved to Northwest Arkansas, she was on a waitlist for three months.

According to Wynn, communities are going to need to step up to see what they can do to support families who are having to make tough decisions.

To apply for Fayetteville’s childcare assistance program, you can call community resources at 479-575-8620.