As any parent can tell you–childcare can be costly. That’s why programs to help parents out are so important. Merced County’s alternative payment program is a way for parents to afford quality child care.

For some families across the valley it’s hard to make ends meet; that’s where Merced County Office of Education’s alternative payment program comes in. It’s a way for parents to afford child care and other school programs for their children. It’s something that benefits not only the families, but the county’s economy as well.

For Araceli Ochoa, her son Jaxson is her whole world and for her his education is her top priority.

Thanks to Merced’s alternative payment and access program Ochoa was able to pay for it.

“Daycare providers are so expensive they cost around $600 a month…it was able for me to provide other things for my son, like to play sports or buy him things he needed or buy his food,” said Ochoa. 

“it assists families of low income status or some sort of special status who are going to school working trying to find a job or permanent shelter; we help them with their childcare needs which we will reimburse on their behalf for a provider of their choice,” stated  businesses services manager, Eric Sonnenfeld.

Sonnenfeld says this program helps families stay on their feet–in a county with historically high unemployment.

“Imagine someone who is making minimum wage, taking home $750-$1,000 a week or $3,000 or $4,000 a month that’s a huge chunk of your income going to childcare to one child and if you have two or three; that’s a significant impact to your budget,” mentioned Sonnenfeld.

He also says the program helps the economy. The County Office of Education brings in $750,000 in childcare reimbursements a month..

That goes to about 12-hundred independent businesses or child care providers and that translates into almost $5 million for the county as a whole.

“These folks who receive these reimbursements are local folks. They go to our local stores they buy local groceries they buy electronics, furniture, gas; those businesses they’ve gotten from those child care providers they pay their employees and their employees go buy things in our community,” he said. 

For a single mom like Ochoa she was able to focus building her own business and…the most important man in her life.

“I was able to get the help I needed I was able to create my own business I was able to succeed,” said Ochoa.