Air Force doubles childcare hours, launches web-based housing tool

The Air Force is implementing two new programs to ease life for airmen outside of their jobs.

The service increased the amount of free childcare for troops who deploy and implemented a new tool to help airmen find homes.

The number of free childcare hours doubled for families of service members who are deployed on April 1. Those families will now get 16 free hours of predeployment childcare and 16 hours of post-deployment care per child per month.

“This expanded care program will give our Airmen peace of mind that their families are taken care of throughout the deployment and remote assignment process,” Col. Donna Turner, Air Force Services Activity commander, said in an April 2 statement. “This will certainly enhance readiness and help build our airmen’s resiliency so they can better concentrate on executing the mission.”

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The childcare program applies to active duty, reserve and guard airmen and is one of the biggest issues for service members.

The 2017 Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey noted that two-thirds of military families said they could not reliably find the childcare they needed. Fifty six percent of families said the Defense Department does not provide adequate support to help children cope with the unique challenges associated with military life.

Childcare issues not only affect service members, but also their spouses who sometimes have to give up employment to care for a child while their military spouse is deployed.

“Again and again we hear from these spouses that the lack of childcare puts a big burden in their way in terms of finding employment,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who introduced a bill this year to allow military families to set up tax-free spending accounts for childcare. “Childcare is so expensive that the childcare is going to cost more than your salary then you are not going to work, you’re not going to maintain your career, your profession during that time.”

Outside of childcare, the Air Force is trying to make station changes a better experience for airmen.

The service implemented its Housing Early Assistance Tool (HEAT) on April 2. The web-based initiative helps service members and their families connect with installation housing offices to learn more about living options for an upcoming duty assignment.

HEAT allows service members and their families to request housing information for on-base government, community and privatized housing.

“The HEAT provides for an easy online experience to connect the members with their future destination and offers an online venue to obtain housing assistance prior to a PCS transfer,” said Sheila Schwartz, Air Force housing program lead. “Air Force housing offices look forward to assisting members and their families in support of finding their next home.”

Read more of the DoD Personnel Notebook.