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Jan 27, 2023 | April Xu

How to Apply for Child Care Subsidies If You Are A Low-Income Undocumented Family

Promise NYC, a $10 million new program will subsidize about 600 low-income undocumented families who are ineligible for federally-funded subsidized childcare

Starting in January, “Promise NYC,” a new program launched by New York City, will provide child care assistance to hundreds of low-income families who were previously ineligible because of their immigration status.

Mayor Eric Adams announced the first-of-a-kind program last December. The city expects Promise NYC, a $10 million investment, to support at least 600 children from January 2023 to June 30, 2023.

Due to restrictive federal rules, many federal public benefits programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), nonemergency Medicaid, and childcare assistance, have generally long excluded “not-qualified” immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, from being eligible for assistance.

But Promise NYC aims to provide needed childcare assistance to undocumented families. It will pay child care providers directly once a child is enrolled. Last December, Mayor Adams said in a statement that the timing of the launch of Promise NYC would be “particularly beneficial to the newly arrived asylum seekers,” adding that the program will help ensure parents can pursue housing and employment while their children are cared for safely. 

The four organizations contracted with the city to help people enroll in Promise NYC told Documented that the demand for the program is huge and the capacity is limited. They encourage eligible families to contact them as soon as possible to ensure they can get childcare assistance.

“We’re coming close to full enrollment,” said Julia Jean-Francois, co-executive director of Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, which operates Promise NYC in Brooklyn. She explained that after the city announced the program, the organization started enrollment quickly to ensure the eligible families have the most access to daycare. According to Jean-Francois, as of Jan. 24, Center for Family Life has nearly 160 children in the process of enrolling out of 180 possible slots. 

Here is a guide to enrolling in Promise NYC if you are a low-income undocumented family with children.

What is Promise NYC?

Promise NYC is a program funded by New York City that will cover the cost of child care at a child care provider of the family’s choice until June 30, 2023 (if additional funding is available, the program may continue beyond this date). 

Who are the CBOs helping enrollment in Promise NYC?

Currently, the New York City Administration of Children Services (ACS) is contracting with four Community-Based Organization (CBO) partners with experience serving immigrant communities and families to help launch the program in five boroughs.

Center for Family Life serves families in Brooklyn, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation serves families in the Bronx and Manhattan, La Colmena serves families in Staten Island, and the Chinese-American Planning Council serves families in Queens. Each CBO will be responsible for community and family outreach in their respective borough.

Also Read: How Can Undocumented Immigrants Get a Work Permit in the US

Who is eligible for Promise NYC?

The program will help families who previously didn’t qualify for other state or federal programs due to their immigration status. In addition, the program will help newly arrived asylum seekers. The city expects the program will help at least 600 families.

Children may be eligible if: 

  • Their immigration status makes them ineligible for other federally-funded subsidized child care
  • They live in New York City
  • They are 0 to 13 years old 
  • Your household income is below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, which means a household of:
  • 2 with income under $4,578 per month ($54,930 per year) 
  • 3 with income under $5,758 per month ($69,090 per year) 
  • 4 with income under $6,938 per month ($83,250 per year) 
  • 5 with income under $8,118 per month ($97,410 per year)

*Income limits continue to increase for larger families

How do I enroll in Promise NYC?

An interested parent should reach out to their respective Community-Based Organization (CBO) in their borough, and a Promise NYC worker will take the parent through a facilitated application process. 

If the child is eligible for Promise NYC, the CBO staff will help the parent sign up for Promise NYC, which includes supporting the family’s search, selection, and enrollment with a licensed or registered childcare program of their choice and issuing monthly subsidy payments to the child care provider. 

Bronx and Manhattan: Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

How to contact: By phone or by email

Address: 45 Wadsworth Ave., New York, NY 10033

Phone: 929-415-3999 (Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.)

Email: promisenyc@nmic.org

Website: Families and providers can also visit its website for more information about eligibility

“There has already been a huge demand for this program, and our capacity is limited,” said Kimberly J. Warner, deputy director of Legal, Organizing, & Advocacy Services of NMIC. She said she hopes the capacity increases if the program funding is extended beyond June.

Warner pointed out that the best way for families to connect with NMIC and get screened for the program is by calling NMIC’s intake line on Tuesdays between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. or sending an email. She added that NMIC is partnering with CBOs in other boroughs and can make referrals for clients who need services in those boroughs.

Brooklyn: Center for Family Life

How to contact: Walk-in, by phone, or by email

Address: 443 39th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232

Phone: 718-438-9500 (please mention “daycare program” or “Promise NYC”)

Email: J.Castillo-Gutierrez@centerforfamilylife.org, M.Zeas@centerforfamilylife.org, or C.Stewart@centerforfamilylife.org

“Most of the folks that we are working with can’t do online applications, so we’re doing it through phone or in person so that we can support people to complete the application,” said Jean-Francois. 

She mentioned many parents that the organization helped enroll in Promise NYC are asylum seekers from Central America. “They’ve come to the hotel programs here in Brooklyn, and we’ve been working with them to enroll the children in daycare,” said Jean-Francois, mentioning that other enrolled members also included Russian-speaking and Mandarin-speaking undocumented families.

“It’s a terrific, wonderful program. We would strongly encourage the city to continue to recognize the needs of undocumented children, not just through June but into the years to come,” said Jean-Francois.

Staten Island: La Colmena

How to contact: Fill out a form online, by phone, or by email

Phone: 718-442-7700

Email: For more questions regarding eligibility, families should contact Child Care Assistance Coordinator Judith Prado at judith@lacolmenanyc.org

Website: Staten Island families who wish to apply for Promise NYC, please fill in the form at: bit.ly/SiPromiseNYC or English form. The Child Care Assistance Coordinator will contact the families for the screening process. 

La Colmena began screening community members on Friday, Jan. 20. “The application is available in 10 languages. As of last week, La Colmena has a waitlist of 60 families interested in the program,” said La Colmena Child Care Assistance Coordinator Judith Prado.

Queens: Chinese-American Planning Council

How to contact: Fill out a form online or by email

Email: For more questions regarding eligibility, please contact CPC Child Care Assistance Program Supervisor Robert Calabretta at rcalabretta@cpc-nyc.org

Website: For Queens families who wish to apply for Promise NYC, please fill in the form at: https://forms.office.com/r/Sd8WjLj7wQ. A CPC representative will contact you for the screening process.

CPC started accepting applications on Jan. 17. “Asian American and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of the undocumented status of all racial groups, and this disproportionately impacts undocumented children who are often shut out of critical educational and support services,” said Wayne Ho, president and CEO of CPC. “We are honored to be the Promise NYC community partner in Queens, providing child care vouchers to increase access to academic and social-emotional development programs for children and quality childcare for working immigrant parents.”

Also Read: As Asylum Seekers Arrive in NYC, Many Struggle to Get on Their Feet

How soon will the families receive the subsidies once their applications get approved? And how much can each family get?

A spokesperson of ACS told Documented that Promise NYC will pay child care providers directly once a child is enrolled, “because this program has just launched, ACS doesn’t have information yet on how long it takes to process an application. The amount of subsidies will vary.”

Does the city plan to expand “Promise NYC” after June, and will the city partner with more CBOs?

According to ACS, with the existing funding for this initiative, the city expects that it can serve at least 600 children between now and June 30. “With our CBO partners, we will closely track spending and seek to serve as many children as possible given resources,” said the ACS spokesperson.  

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