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How to Apply for the Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program

Follow the steps below to learn how you can apply for the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program and how to be successful in the program after being found eligible.

Step 1: Apply for Wisconsin Shares Child Care Eligibility

You can complete an application by:

Applying Online     
Use the State’s online application tool, ACCESS, to apply for Wisconsin Shares Child Care assistance. ACCESS is easy to use, and it does not take long to apply online. By using ACCESS, you can also apply for FoodShare, HealthCare, and Family Planning. Once you have applied, you may install the MyACCESS App on your mobile phone to access your benefits anytime and anywhere. 

In Person or by Telephone    
Unsure of where to apply for Wisconsin Shares? Take a look at the Where to Apply Map to find your local Income Maintenance Agency and its contact information.

If you live in Milwaukee County, please start your application process online or call Milwaukee Enrollment Services (MilES), the local income maintenance agency, at:    
Select option one (1) for child care. You will then be provided with two options. Select option one (1) again when asked if you are calling to apply or if you have eligibility questions.    
Or visit:    
6055 N. 64th Street    
Milwaukee, WI 53218

2701 S. Chase Ave.    
Milwaukee, WI 53207    
Hours: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, or 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. on Thursday

MilES staff will complete the application process with you.

Step 2: Complete an Eligibility Interview

Before you can receive Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy, you must meet the eligibility guidelines.

Read more about the guidelines in the Wisconsin Shares Eligibility Guidelines brochure. Spanish

To become eligible, your family’s monthly gross income must not be more than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) (Wisconsin Shares Co-Payment Schedule). After you have been determined eligible, you can remain financially eligible until your income reaches 85% of the state median income. These figures are updated annually.

2023 Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and State Median Income (SMI) Limits Table for Financial Eligibility in the Wisconsin Shares Program Effective February 1, 2023
Group Size Monthly 185% FPL Monthly 85% SMI
2 $3,040 $4,956
3 $3,833 $6,122
4 $4,625 $7,289
5 $5,417 $8,455
6 $6,210 $9,621
7 $7,002 $9,840
8 $7,795 $10,058
9 $8,587 $10,277
10 $9,380 $10,496
Each Additional Person Add $792 N/A

For example, for a family of three, with one parent and two children, if the parent works 40 hours a week at $22 per hour, the family would be found financially eligible and would remain financially eligible until the parent’s hourly wage was $35.20.

Approved Activity    
This is the activity that qualifies you for eligibility. Examples of approved activities are:

You will be asked to verify certain information. Some of the documents that may help you meet verification requirements are:

  • Driver’s license, photo ID card, or U.S. passport
  • Social Security Number for children who need subsidy
  • Certified copy of child’s official birth certificate if not born in Wisconsin
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship for children who need subsidy; parents do not need U.S. citizenship to be eligible to receive child care subsidy
  • Proof of your address
  • The last 30 days of dated paycheck stubs

Child Support Cooperation     
If you are not married to and/or living with your child’s other parent, or if paternity has not been established for your child, you will need to cooperate with the Child Support Agency in order to be eligible for Wisconsin Shares. You will be asked to provide information to the Child Support Agency to help them find your child’s other parent and require that parent to pay child support. You will be required to attend all scheduled appointments with the Child Support Agency, hearings, or other legal proceedings. If the other parent causes you to fear for your safety or the safety of your child, you may request an exemption from cooperating with the Child Support Agency because of your safety concerns.

Eligibility Notice    
After you have provided your verification and other requested information, the agency will determine your eligibility. If you applied online or have an ACCESS account, you may visit ACCESS to find out if you are eligible to receive Wisconsin Shares.

You will receive a Notice of Eligibility. If you are found eligible, you must then contact your local agency to provide information on the child care provider you have selected.

Step 3: Select a Child Care Provider

YoungStar Is Wisconsin’s Quality Rating and Improvement Systemyoungstar Wisconsin's Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System 
In order to receive a Wisconsin Shares authorization, the child care program you choose must be licensed or certified, as well as they must participate in YoungStar. You should also make sure that the program you’re interested in has space available for your child and that they are open during the hours that you would need care. You can use DCF’s Child Care Finder to find detailed information on each child care program's YoungStar rating, hours of operation, location, accreditation, and monitoring results. To get a full picture of a program, it is important to look at both the YoungStar and the health and safety monitoring information for each child care provider.

Consider asking your child care provider the following questions:

  • What is my total cost for child care?
  • How often am I billed - weekly, biweekly, or monthly?
  • What date do I need to pay my bill?
  • Are receipts available when I make a payment?
  • May I review your payment agreement?
  • Would you like to be paid by phone, online, or in person?
  • What's your policy for absences?
  • What is your policy for children who are sick?
  • What are your policies on child behavior?

Read Your Guide to Choosing Child Care for some handy tips.

Child care providers set their own prices. It is important to know the provider's price because the Child Care Subsidy will not cover the full cost of child care. Your portion of the cost is known as the Parent Share. To help find out what your Parent Share might be, please see the Maximum Rate Chart. Here you will compare a provider's price to the maximum amount the subsidy can pay. In addition, your subsidy will be reduced by a copayment amount based on your income and household size, and is adjusted annually at your renewal. Learn more about the Wisconsin Shares Copayment Schedule.

Parent Share    
You are responsible for paying any amount your child care provider charges that is not covered by your subsidy amount. Ask your provider for their payment policies.

Step 4: Request an Authorization for Child Care Subsidy

You will provide your child care provider's name and address, your approved activity schedule, and the times that your child will need child care to your local agency worker. This information will be used to create your authorization.

For families living in Milwaukee County, once you have been found eligible for child care subsidy, contact:

Milwaukee Early Care Administration (MECA)    
Call 1.888.947.6583: Select option one (1) for Child Care. You will be provided with two options. Select the second option (2) about requesting an authorization.

If you have an ACCESS account, you can use the same log-in information to access the MyWIChildCare Parent Portal. In the Parent Portal, you may schedule an appointment for a worker to contact you at your scheduled time or request an authorization. When a worker receives your request for an authorization, they will either call you or message you back in the MyWIChildCare Parent Portal. You may also set up text message alerts through the Parent Portal when a local agency worker sends you a message. 

Learn more about the Milwaukee Early Care Administration (MECA).

Authorization Notice    
Your authorization will list your children, your child care provider, the number of monthly hours for each child, and the dollar amount that will be loaded to your EBT card for the month.    

You will also receive a Quarterly Authorization Notice in the mail or in the Parent Portal. Every three months, you will receive a notice telling you about your upcoming child care authorizations. You will get a new notice if you make changes to your authorization(s). A notice will also be sent when your authorization ends. Information about each of your children’s subsidy amount will be included on the same quarterly notice.

Find more about how your Authorization Notice will look and other helpful information in the Understanding Your Authorization Notice brochureSpanish

How Do I Get My Benefits?    
Your benefits will be issued on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. You will receive your MyWIChildCare EBT card in the mail after your authorization is set up.

About the MyWIChildCare EBT Card MyWIChildCare EBT card image    
When your authorization has been established, your EBT card will be sent through the mail with instructions for activating your card and setting up your Personal Identification Number (PIN). To activate the card, call the Fidelity National Information Service (FIS) customer service line (1.877.201.7601), or visit the ebtEdge website to create an account. The EBT card will be used for future authorizations. You will not need to get a new card for a new authorization.

Step 5: Pay Your Provider

Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy funds are loaded onto the EBT card. Subsidy funds for each of your children will be on the same card, regardless of how many children you have or providers you use. You can use the funds only to pay the provider listed on your authorization. (This card cannot be used at an ATM or as a debit card.)

There are three (3) ways you can pay your child care provider:

  • Online - You may visit the FIS website at to log into your account and make payment online.
  • Telephone - You may call the FIS customer service line (1.877.201.7601) and pay over the phone. It is important to have your card number with you before making the call.
  • At your provider’s location - Some child care providers have a Point of Sale (POS) device at their location. If this is the easiest method for you, please ask your child care provider if they have a POS device that you can use to make the payment.
Step 6: Report Your Changes

Notify your local Income Maintenance Agency within 10 calendar days after any change the Wisconsin Shares child care program requires you to report. If there is a change to your income, depending on when the change occurs and when it is reported, it may not impact your monthly subsidy amount until your renewal. The changes that need to be reported include, but are not limited to:

  • A new home address
  • Change in income
  • Loss of job
  • Change in size of household
  • Change in marital status
  • A change in child care need

A full list of the reporting requirements will be found on your Authorization Notice.

Step 7: Renew Eligibility Annually

Your eligibility must be renewed annually. During your annual eligibility review you will follow the same process as  described in Steps 1 and 2, including the interview and verification of all eligibility items. You must complete much of the same verification as was done at your initial eligibility. Following your annual renewal you will get a new authorization based on your new information.