For Snowmass families in need of child care, financial aid offers support

State, local agencies provide funding

Local Teka Catron, left, holds the hand of Amelia Schmitt, 2, alongside Makenzie Shmitt, 7, Hazel Cavender, 2, and Tyler Schmitt, 5, at the Snowmass Ice Rink in Base Village on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. The group lives in Carbondale but come up to Snowmass to ski and skate. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

In Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley, an ever-changing supply and demand equation impacted by COVID-19 continues to mold the landscape of child care services. Some parents opt for a traditional model at the Little Red Schoolhouse, but others have turned to alternative options — relying on family and friends or employer-run programs — to meet the need.

But there’s another factor in the equation, too: cost. Most licensed child care programs in the area charge between $70 and $80 per day for the service.

The high rate ensures that operations are properly staffed. But the cost can still be prohibitive for some — especially in a time when many face uncertainty about the status of their employment and when schools that would normally offer in-person services have moved to online or hybrid models due to the pandemic.

“Parents are just hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” said Aspen Family Connections Director Katherine Sand. “Child care is one of the most stressful things for families in Pitkin County.”

That’s where state and local agencies come in: Several programs and initiatives are available to families in need, according to Shirley Ritter, the director of the Aspen-based child care resource center Kids First. Ritter encourages families facing the stress of child care to reach out to Kids First with questions; the organization may be able to offer direct support or point parents in the right direction.

“We’ll try to help you — at the very least we will listen — and if we can’t help you, we’ll put you in touch with somebody else in the community that can,” Ritter said. “We have a great community in that way.”

Kids First Financial Aid

Kids First currently offers short-term COVID-19 emergency assistance and long-term financial aid to qualifying parents with children younger than 5 enrolled in a Pitkin County licensed child care program.

The emergency assistance supports half the price of tuition for two days of child care for families who have experienced job loss due to COVID-19. The application is short but requires monthly updates; families are eligible for as much as six months of funding.

For longer-term needs, Kids First offers income-based financial aid that involves a more extensive application requiring tax returns and pay statements. In two-parent households, both parents must be working on days they receive financial aid for support.

The next deadline to apply is Feb. 1, but all families must reapply in May, allowing those who have not yet filed their 2020 taxes to update their information and eligibility later this year, Ritter said.

Because Kids First is supported by a city of Aspen tax, eligible families must either live or work (or both) within Aspen’s Urban Growth Boundary, which spans from the airport to East Aspen. That means families who live in Snowmass Village can qualify if a parent works in Aspen, and families in Aspen can qualify if a parent works in Snowmass Village, but those who live and work in Snowmass Village are ineligible.

More information is available at

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program

Administered through Pitkin County, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program offers financial support for child care for families with children younger than 13 while parents are working.

Families are subject to income limits and apply through their county of residence; because the program is statewide, families in neighboring Eagle and Garfield counties also are eligible.

Applications are available at

Aspen Family Connections Resources

True to its name, Aspen Family Connections provides connections, referrals and resources to families looking for child care support and a wide range of other services from food to rent assistance to legal services.

The organization is based within the Aspen School District but aims to serve any family in the area who needs help, Sand said. The organization also has emergency funding available to families that can support a number of needs, including child care costs. They also can direct families toward other resources, like weekly programs for school-aged children who need a safe, supervised place to complete their online schoolwork.

For more information, call 970-205-7025.