What is the REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program and why should I apply?
The REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program has been providing early childhood educators with monetary stipends to increase compensation and encourage retention since its inception in 2001. It is one of several programs Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) administers statewide.
Who is eligible to apply for the REWARD program?
Due to a program expansion and a significant funding increase in summer 2022, program eligibilities have broadened to serve nearly all of Wisconsin’s early childhood educators at higher stipend amounts. Current requirements are:
- Any Registry Level
- Worked at your current employer for at least six current and continuous months
Other Employment Requirements
- Employed by a group child care program that is licensed and/or participating in YoungStar; OR, in a licensed or certified family child care program
- Work at least 20 hours per week
- Work at least 5% of your time in an early childhood classroom, either directly with children or in supervision and support of staff
- Live and/or work in the state of Wisconsin
How do I apply?
Why do you need my Social Security Number for my application? What if I don’t have a SSN?
REWARD needs your SSN because stipends are personal income, and WECA is required to report them to the IRS. You will need to report your stipends on your taxes at the end of every year. If you do not have a SSN, a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) number will work for the REWARD application.
I don’t receive paystubs from my program. What should I submit for proof of employment?
As we ourselves move away from paper checks, we understand individuals may not have access to traditional check stubs we have asked for in previous years. Many individuals will be paid by direct deposit and, with this, receive electronic or online notifications associated with that payment. If you do not have a traditional pay stub, you can upload one of these online pay statements as proof of employment. Please note it must include the following information:
- Your name
- Name of your employer
- Date the payment was issued
- Payment amount
To upload, look for a way to download the pay statement onto your device (computer, smartphone, or tablet). There may be an icon that looks similar to this to signify you can download a document. If you can’t download the statement, there may be a way to share it with or email it to yourself. You can save a screenshot or even take a picture of the screen. Please note any document should be clear and easy to read.
For documents you upload, please note the following will NOT be accepted:
- A financial institution deposit slip or screenshot of a deposit into your account
- A timesheet
- A W-2 Form
I own my program, what should I submit to prove employment?
If you are an owner of a group child care program or owner of a family child care program, you DO NOT need to submit documentation to prove your employment. The REWARD program will verify your employment by reviewing Wisconsin Department of Families information to verify your program is open and serving children. If this is the case, we consider this verification of your employment.
How do I know if my application was received?
All applicants should receive a confirmation email when submitting your application. If you don’t receive one in your inbox, please check your spam or junk email folders.
I haven’t worked at my program for six months yet, but I’ve been in the field longer. Can I still apply?
The longevity requirement for the REWARD Program is six months at your current program and this is required for participation. One goal of the program is to recognize the commitment to an early childhood program because a stable, committed workforce is what is best for young children and their families.
How are stipends awarded?
The goal of the REWARD Stipend Program is to award all stipends by direct deposit. As such, you will be asked to provide your financial institution/account information with your application. We understand this may not be your preferred method, so receiving a paper check is still an option. Please know direct deposit will be a quicker, more efficient, and safer way to receive your funds. Direct deposits do not get lost or stolen in the mail.
What should I expect once I’ve applied?
The REWARD program has been very busy since our new application became available in July 2022. Thousands of applications have been received, along with hundreds of calls, emails, and online chats. REWARD staff are processing applications and expect the first round of stipends to be sent in August 2022.
Applications are processed in the order received, and it will take time to process the large volume. We expect individuals will receive their payments within approximately three months of submitting an application. If you have any additional or more specific questions, please reach out to a member of our REWARD staff during regular business hours. We are available via phone, email, or online chat.
How can I use my stipend?
Any way you want. The stipend is considered your personal income and can be used at your discretion. Pay your bills, take a vacation, start a 401K – whatever meets your needs!
How often will I receive my stipend?
The goal of the REWARD program is for stipends to be awarded every six months. Volume of applications and application processing time can affect that goal. You will be sent a renewal email one month before your agreement is complete reminding you it is time to reapply. Do not reapply earlier.
What is the due date for this program?
There technically is not a due date for the REWARD program. Applications will be accepted and stipends awarded until current funding is expended. But why wait? Apply now and start receiving your stipend as soon as possible.
How are the REWARD program and the Workforce Retention and Recognition Program related?
WRRP was a one-time program to provide financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The program awarded stipends (either $550 or $300) to individuals who worked in early childhood programs and had completed the required fingerprint checks. That program is complete and is no longer awarding stipends. The REWARD program is WECA’s longtime, ongoing program that provides ongoing stipends every six months. Eligibilities are based on employment, educational, and longevity requirements. The size of the stipend you receive is based on your Registry Level. REWARD recently expanded in 2022 so that many more individuals are now eligible, including many who participated in the WRRP.
Can I get a paper copy of the application or renewal?
The REWARD program is moving to accepting only online applications. It is the quickest and easiest way to apply. We understand people may not have immediate access to the technology needed to submit online applications, and we recommend the following if you do not have a computer or laptop:
- Submit on a tablet or smartphone, as the applications are mobile-friendly.
- Ask if you can submit your application from a computer at work.
- Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to help you apply using their computer.
- All public libraries should have computers for public use, and library staff are happy to assist as needed.
- If none of the above options work for you, please reach out to REWARD program staff for further guidance.
Do I have to pay taxes on my stipend?
All REWARD stipends are personal income and must be reported to the IRS when you file your taxes. If you receive funds from WECA programs totaling $600 or more during a calendar year, WECA will send a 1099-MISC tax form. However, you need to report all stipends as personal income to the IRS whether or not you receive the 1099-MISC from WECA. The 1099-MISC form is for reporting purposes only and does not need to be submitted with your tax returns. Please consult a tax professional for more information on how to report this income.
How is REWARD funded?
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families funds the REWARD program. Most recently, DCF and the state Legislature allocated federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the REWARD and T.E.A.C.H. programs to support the early childhood workforce and child care programs in Wisconsin through June 2024. We are appreciative of this and know how important it is to support early educators, children and families. It’s also an incredibly important reminder on the importance of continued advocacy to ensure we can sustain funding sources moving forward.
What is the connection between REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program and the Wisconsin Registry?
The REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program and Wisconsin Registry are two separate entities that work independently while collaborating to provide valuable supports to early childhood professionals. REWARD is a program of WECA that awards stipend checks based on specific eligibilities. Where the two organizations overlap is that the amount of stipend we award is determined by your level on The Registry Career Ladder. Individuals receive a Registry Level after submitting their work history, record of coursework taken (both credit-based and continuing education hours), and professional contributions to the Registry. A person is awarded a Registry Certificate, which summarizes all the information submitted. Once you have a Registry Level, you can apply for a REWARD Stipend. The REWARD application asks for your Registry ID Number, which then allows us to look up your Registry Level on a report supplied to us by the Registry.
The fastest and easiest way to apply for a REWARD stipend is to use our online application.
Do you have questions?
We have the answers to your most commonly asked REWARD questions.