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Alberta government announces $28M for more affordable private daycare spaces

Click to play video: 'Alberta government taking steps to create more private child-care spaces'
Alberta government taking steps to create more private child-care spaces
The Alberta government said it's getting closer to reaching $10-a-day child-care. Thousands of private daycare and dayhome spaces are eligible for a grant, but some operators are skeptical the province can reach its goal. Sarah Komadina explains. – Oct 10, 2023

The Alberta government announced Tuesday it’s getting closer to reaching $10-a-day child care, expanding who is eligible to apply.

The Space Creation Grant will direct $28 million towards 22,500 new, licensed child-care spaces over the next five years.

This comes after $50 million was directed towards adding to 5,500 spaces at licensed family day home agencies at the beginning of 2023.

Click to play video: 'Alberta and feds agree to next phase in affordable child-care plan'
Alberta and feds agree to next phase in affordable child-care plan

Applications are open to new and existing licensed non-profit and private facility-based child-care programs and family day homes interested in creating new spaces.

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“Parents who are challenged to find accessible and affordable child care right now will be happy to know that funding will focus on creating new spaces in communities where they are needed the most, and the grant will help us meet our overall commitment to create over 60,700 new, affordable, licensed spaces by 2026,” Children and Family Services Minister Searle Turton said.

“More families than ever will see their options expand and their fees go down, and our private child-care industry is going to be instrumental in making that happen.”

Eligible recipients may receive up to $1,350 for family day home agencies and up to $6,000 for facility-based programs for each new licensed space created, the province said Tuesday.

Private operators make up as much as 70 per cent of child-care spaces in Alberta. The government grant is intended to give parents more choice, with the hope of bringing the province closer to $10 a day by 2026.

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Sarah Hunter owns The Imagination Tree, a 96-child private daycare in Calgary, and said while the news is good for the private sector, it’s still not going to get the province to that goal in under three years.

“I actually don’t think it’s achievable at all. And if it is achievable, we’ll have child care — but it certainly won’t be quality child care,” Hunter said, noting her facility provides food and enrichment programming that’s important for childhood development.

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Click to play video: 'Will $10-a-day childcare bring more women back to work?'
Will $10-a-day childcare bring more women back to work?

Diana Batten, Alberta NDP critic for child care and children and family services, stressed in the wake of the E. coli outbreak last month at several Calgary daycares, affordable care still needs to be high-quality.

“Yes, more spaces are needed. We know that. But at the same time, we need to be able to make sure these kids are safe,” she said.

In order to get lower fees, Hunter said in the face of inflation over the past year, either parents have to pay more or the government does.

She said one of the drawbacks of the agreement is waiting 45 days for money from the government to appear in the bank accounts of private operators.

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“We’re floating our centres financially for the government with no compensation. So there’s many, many factors that are making it so difficult to operate quality child care under this agreement.”

Another drawback Hunter noted: capped fees.

“Not being able to raise our fees to meet our costs isn’t a good business practice for any business.”

Hunter said her facility is already at capacity and won’t be able to add more spots in order to qualify for the Space Creation Grant.

She said both parents and businesses like hers want affordable child care, but “to be honest, daycare just doesn’t cost $10 a day and it never will.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta childcare providers ask the province to reconsider day care funding agreements'
Alberta childcare providers ask the province to reconsider day care funding agreements

That said, Hunter feels any move to increase funding to private operators is a step in the right direction.

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“I feel as if we were, in the past, not recognized as being a big part of this plan, but obviously we are. So that’s a really good first step.

“I just think there’s some more work to do to make this agreement workable for the private operator.”

Operators can apply for the Space Creation Grant through the Alberta Purchasing Connection website. There is no closing date for applications at this time, the province said.

The province said the Canada-Alberta Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement provides an estimated $3.8 billion for child care over five years.

The province said the funding has helped reduce parent fees for infants to kindergarten-aged children by an average of 50 per cent.

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