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Can I Collect Unemployment If I Can't Afford Day Care to Go Back to Work?

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If you have children and lose your job, unemployment benefits can hold you over until you find new work. However, they also require financial sacrifices, and cutting day care costs from the budget may be the first casualty. After all, being unemployed gives you the freedom to care for your own kids. Returning to work means shelling out money to re-enroll the kids in day care. If day care is not affordable for you, you might want to continue to rely on unemployment, but you need to consider some important factors before declining a job offer or altogether giving up your hopes of returning to employment.

Unemployment Eligibility

Unemployment insurance compensates individuals who have lost their jobs. If you have no work history, you cannot claim unemployment benefits. To claim benefits, you must show you lost your job and were not at fault. Generally, full-time workers who are the victims of a company layoff are eligible for unemployment. The same applies to employees of a company that ceases operations. If you are terminated from a job for cause, you generally cannot claim unemployment benefits.

Work Availability

To continue receiving unemployment benefits, you must demonstrate to your state’s unemployment office you are available to work. If your state’s unemployment office deems you unavailable for work, you could lose your unemployment benefits. The standards vary somewhat by state, but you generally must show a reasonable willingness and ability to work if you receive a suitable job offer. In California, for example, you must show you have child care or can secure it within a reasonable amount of time, according to the California Employment Development Department. If you cannot prove you can secure child care, you may be deemed unavailable to work.

Suitable Work

When individuals receive unemployment benefits, they must show they are actively seeking work, and state unemployment regulations require these individuals to accept job offers for suitable work, according to the legal website NOLO. Suitable work generally refers to work which you could be expected to perform reasonably well and which pays wages similar to your past job. Other factors include your health, ability to commute to the job site, morals and safety concerns. Work suitability does not factor in your ability to find child care, and the state could pull your unemployment benefits if you decline a job offer because you cannot afford to pay for child care.

Child Care Assistance

Some states provide assistance to unemployed workers who need help paying for child care so they can return to work. Some states also assist low-income parents in paying for child care. According to the Urban Institute, 19 states provided child care subsidies to unemployed parents in 2012. If you are unemployed and cannot afford to pay for child care, ask your state’s unemployment office whether your state offers any assistance. You may be referred to your state’s social services office. Programs may provide assistance in paying for child care while you work a new job. Some also provide child care subsidies while you search for jobs. Another option is to ask child care providers if they would allow you to make late payments for child care services during the first few months of your new employment.


Based in Central Florida, Ron White has worked as professional journalist since 2001. He specializes in sports and business. White started his career as a sportswriter and later worked as associate editor for Maintenance Sales News and as the assistant editor for "The Observer," a daily newspaper based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. White has written more than 2,000 news and sports stories for newspapers and websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.

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