October 6, 2016 3:58 pm
Updated: October 13, 2016 10:50 am

Child-care subsidies: What parents in every province need to know

Do you know you might be able to get a subsidy to alleviate the high costs of child care? Here's what you need to know.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

A subsidy can go a long way when it comes to alleviating child-care costs, which by the way, will set you back way more than university tuition.

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Navigating the system is a struggle in itself, as parents across the country revealed. And as Global News learned, even the government ministries that run each province’s child-care subsidy program can have a hard time explaining it.

We reached out to departments from coast to coast with a few basic questions — who can get a subsidy, how much money they can get, how quickly, etc. It seemed like a simple enough task that could be easily answered by those who manage the service.

Boy, were we wrong.

Apart from one province (B.C.) which replied to our request within hours, some took days to respond. One ministry spokesperson even seemed miffed by our deadline.

So one can only imagine how hard it must be for parents who don’t get a direct line to those in charge.

Hopefully the information we’ve compiled below can help. Scroll down to your province (they’re ordered from west to east) to see its child-care subsidy criteria.


What’s the income requirement?

Families that earn $40,000 per year or less are encouraged to apply. Families with a higher net income may still be eligible to receive a partial subsidy.

Who’s eligible? 

A parent or guardian must live in B.C., be either a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or refugee, and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be in school or enrolled in distance education
  • Be seeking employment or participating in an employment-related program (only one parent can be looking for work)
  • Have a medical condition that interferes with caring for a child
  • Have a child in a licensed preschool

How much will the subsidy cover?

The child-care subsidy is paid per child. It is dependent on the child’s age and the type of child care they receive.

The most a family can receive is $750 per month (for a child under 19 months in a licensed group child-care facility).

Parents who have a child with special needs may be eligible for an additional $150 per month through the Special Needs Supplement.

Once a child starts school, the subsidy rate decreases as fewer child-care hours are required and fees decrease.

How long does the application process take?

The aim is to process applications within 30 days.

Summer is peak season, though, as families make changes to summer schedules and register kids for school. Outside that window, applications are usually processed within 14 days.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

The Single Parent Employment Initiative helps single parents receiving income or disability assistance with training and support to secure a long-term job.


What’s the income requirement?

In Alberta, the most common family structure is a one parent, one toddler in a day-care program. A family like this could earn up to $50,000, receive full subsidy and receive partial subsidy up until their income exceeds $62,100.

The highest income threshold that exists is for a two-parent family with four infants (0-18 months) attending a day-care program.  This family could make up to $116,500 and receive a partial subsidy.

You can use the province’s online estimator tool to see how much subsidy you could qualify for. It considers certain deductions such as tuition, medical expenses, as well as the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

Who’s eligible?

Anyone who lives in Alberta and is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada can apply.

The applicant must either be employed, looking for work, or have special needs. Stay-at-home parents can apply if their child(ren) are enrolled in a licensed pre-school or approved early childhood development program.

The child needs to be 12 years of age or younger and not yet attending Grade 7.

How much will the subsidy cover?

The maximum rate of subsidy a family can receive for one child is $628 for an infant 18 months or younger attending a licensed child care program.

Families living in the northeast region of Alberta may receive slightly higher rates of subsidy based on the cost of living in that region.

The amount of child care subsidy a family is eligible to receive is based on the age of the children in care and how many dependent children live in the home. For children not yet in school they must also receive at least 100 hours of care to be eligible to receive maximum subsidy. For children who are attending Grades 1 to 6, they must attend at least 50 hours to receive their maximum subsidy payment.  If a child is attending less than the required minimum hours they may be eligible to receive a partial subsidy to reflect their hours attended.

The full list of current rates can be found online.

How long does the application process take?

The aim is to respond to all applications within 10 business days. An eligible family may begin receiving child-care subsidy the month in which they apply.

When a parent uses the online application, they are immediately assessed and can automatically receive a two-month conditional approval.

During this time, the applicant will be requested to provide a CRA consent form and any additional documentation required to confirm their eligibility and extend their subsidy for 10 additional months.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

In Alberta the following forms of child care subsidy are also available:

Extended hours subsidy: Parents who work or attend classes during evenings or weekends in addition to child-care subsidy may access extended hours subsidy up to $100 per month per child.

Kin Child Care Subsidy is available for children who are being cared for by a relative who does not live in the same home as the child, for a minimum of 25 hours per month for school age children and 50 hours per month for preschool children. Funding of up to $400 per month is available to eligible low- and middle-income families with children under the age of seven and not yet attending Grade 1, and $200 for school-age children (Grades 1-6).

Lower income families may be eligible may also be eligible for the new Alberta Child Benefit. For example, a single parent with two children can receive a maximum of $1,650 to help make ends meet.


What’s the income requirement?

Maximum subsidies are provided to families with monthly incomes below $1,640 if they have one child under 18 years of age. This threshold is increased by $100 for each additional child under 18. For example:

  • Families with two children under 18 qualify for a maximum subsidy if their monthly income is below $1,740.
  • Families with three children under 18 qualify for a maximum subsidy if their monthly income is below $1,840.
  • Thresholds for families with more than three children are increased similarly without an upper limit.

Because the subsidy calculation takes a number of factors into account (including family size, location of a child care facility, and the age of the children) and because subsidy levels vary with the actual fee charged by a child-care facility, the income cutoffs for reduced subsidies also vary.

If gross income is higher than the income thresholds listed above, a family may still qualify for a reduced subsidy.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for a child care subsidy, individuals must live in Saskatchewan and be citizens or permanent residents of Canada. They must also have lawful custody of the child, who must be under the age of 13 and receive care in a licensed facility.

Parents who are self employed may be eligible. In this case, subsidies are based on the net income reported in the previous year or an estimate of net income for the current year for newly self-employed individuals.

Valid reasons for care include:

  • Employment or self-employment.
  • Attendance at an educational institution.
  • Looking for work.
  • Involvement in a pre-employment program approved by the Ministry.
  • Special medical or social needs.

How much will the subsidy cover?

Maximum subsidy rates vary by location, whether a child is in a child-care centre or family child-care home, and whether full-time care or part-time care is needed.

You can see a break down on this fact sheet.

How long does the application process take?

Child-care subsidy applications are processed within five business days.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement is another benefit program that provides assistance to families with lower-incomes who have children.


What’s the income requirement?

It depends on the makeup of the family. For example, a two-parent family, with one infant and two pre-school children would be eligible for some subsidy, up to an income of $67,692.  There are full and partial subsidies available based on income.

Who’s eligible?

Applicants must reside in Manitoba. The child(ren) must be residing with the parent or guardian who applies.  In matters of joint custody, each parent/guardian may apply only for the days where they have physical custody of the child(ren).

Subsidy is income-based and all applicants must have a reason for care. The six reasons for service are:

  • Employment – subsidy is approved based on days and hours worked.
  • Actively seeking employment – this cannot be used to cover the summer period, though, or to hold a child care spot.
  • Education/Training – subsidy is based on the number of days and hours per week an applicant is enrolled in a school or training program.
  • Medical – a condition must prevent the applicant from caring for the child(ren).
  • Special Needs – a Special Needs Form must be completed by a recognized professional, in collaboration with the family and child care facility.
  • Nursery School Enrollment – subsidy may be provided for preschool children to participate in licensed part-time early childhood development programs (i.e., licensed nursery schools) prior to school entry and no other reason for service is required.

All applicants must qualify under the income test, except for Employment and Income Assistance applicants (social assistance) and foster children.

How much will the subsidy cover?

Here are approximate examples, which cover the full amount, minus $2 per day (a non-subsidized fee that child care facilities may charge):

  • $560 per month for infants
  • $376 per month for kids in preschool
  • School-age (3 period care) $166 – (2 period care) $136 – (1 period care) $103, per month.

How long does the application process take?

It varies from a couple of weeks to 4-6 weeks during busy times of the year.


What’s the income requirement?

There is no maximum income for a family to qualify for a child care fee subsidy in Ontario.

The parental contribution towards the cost of child care for a family receiving fee subsidy is zero if family income is under $20,000; otherwise it is 10 per cent of income over $20,000 and an additional 20 per cent for incomes over $40,000.

Income is “adjusted family net income” which is the income of both spouses based on line 236 of the income tax return, less any Canada Child Benefit received.  If the parental contribution exceeds the cost of child care for all children in the family, the family is not eligible for a child care fee subsidy.

Who’s eligible?

The amount of child care that may be subsidized is based on the hours that both parents, or the single parent, spend(s) at work, in training/education or engaged in other approved activities and therefore not available to care for child(ren). A family may also qualify if a child has special needs or social needs.

How much will the subsidy cover?

The maximum amount a subsidy can cover is the full cost of child care for all children in a family.

The amount of subsidy varies depending on income and the cost of child care. Assuming the same income, the amount of subsidy a family receives generally increases with each additional child, and decreases as each child gets older (as the cost of child care decreases as a child gets older).

How long does the application process take?

The application/approval process time  can vary and is first come/first served.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

Ontario families may be eligible for the Ontario Child Benefit as well as the federal Canada Child Benefit.

New Brunswick

What’s the income requirement?

The upper household annual income threshold is $55,000.

The subsidy is allocated on a sliding scale and the HST, child tax credit or the Canada Child Benefit amounts are not considered as income.

Who’s eligible?

The applicant must be a resident of New Brunswick and demonstrate he or she is either working, studying or undergoing medical treatments. A family is not deemed eligible when there is a stay-at-home parent.

A family must reapply every year and confirm their income, their residency and their work status.

How much will the subsidy cover?

  • $28.50/day for full-time infant care
  • $24.24 for full-time care of kids aged 2-13

How long does the application process take?

It’s typically done within 2-3 days.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

Parents of children with additional needs attending a licensed child-care centre may access the Enhanced Support Worker Program, a program that covers the costs of an aid for the day care so that the child can fully participate in the activities and parents can remain in the workforce. Also, parents have access to the child care tax benefits.

Nova Scotia

What’s the income requirement?

The maximum allowable household income is $ 70,080.

Who’s eligible?

In addition to the financial criteria, the applicant (and their partner, if applicable) must be employed or seeking employment and/or be a student and/or have a special or medical need within the family.

How much will the subsidy cover?

The maximum per diem amounts are: $29/infant; $24/toddler; $23/preschool; $17.70/school age

Eligible per diems are based on total family income and number of dependent children in the family.

How long does the application process take?

The process can usually be completed within about six weeks from the time applications are received.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

Eligible clients may qualify for child care supports through the Department of Community Service’s Income Assistance program which provides up to $400/family/month for child care.

Through the Department of Labor and Advanced Education, the Skills Development program also provides eligible applicants with up to $100/week/per child to assist with child care.

Newfoundland and Labrador

What’s the income requirement?

Single-parent families with a monthly net income below $2,290 and two-parent families $2,320 are eligible for a full subsidy. The maximum net monthly income where a family would receive a partial subsidy is $3,640 for a single-parent family (subsidy of $15 per month) and $3,700 for a two-parent family (subsidy of $5 per month).

Who’s eligible?

Families eligible for subsidy must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Parent(s) are working
  • Parent(s) are in school
  • Parent(s) have a disability that makes them unable to care for their child(ren)
  • Child has a developmental concern whereby attendance at child care would be a benefit
  • Family is involved with child protection and there has been a referral indicating that child will benefit from child care.

How much will the subsidy cover?

Subsidy is paid at a daily rate:

  • $44.00 per day for infants (0-24 months)
  • $33.00 per day for toddlers (24–36 months)
  •  $30.00 per day for preschoolers (36 months+)
  • $14.00 per day for school-aged kids (57 months +). If attending full-day child care in the summer or on PD days, the amount would be $30.00 per day.

The monthly amount paid will vary depending on the number of days in the month.

How long does the application process take?

It can take up to 30 days to process an application. Parents should submit an application 30 days before the anticipated start of child care.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

The cost of child care is factored into the income test (e.g. 1 child $690 per month, two children $1,380 per month, etc.). Therefore, families with more children requiring child care may have higher incomes and still be partially eligible for a subsidy.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has a variety of programs and services that provide funding or reduce costs for individuals and families.

Prince Edward Island

What’s the income requirement?

Each case is assessed by income and need.

Single-parent families with one child can qualify for a full subsidy if they have an income of up to $17,400. Two-parent families with two children can qualify for a full subsidy with an income of up to $23,200.

Those who make more than $29,440 (for single-parent/child families) and $55,040 (for two-parent/child families) exceed the income requirement.

Who’s eligible?

Parents who are working, in training, have a child with special needs, parents have medical needs, and/or Child Protection needs.

How much will the subsidy cover?

Daily rates paid for child care subsidy are:

  • $34 for infants
  • $28 for 2 year olds
  • $27 for 3 to 5 year olds
  • $18 for school-aged kids on storm days, school holidays or professional development days
  • $11 for before and after school care.

How long does the application process take?

An application can be approved same day if all information is provided.

Is there any other financial relief available to parents?

There is a social assistance program which helps islanders in need. However, it is not specific to child care. You can find more information here.


Quebec, which has the country’s most affordable child care, doesn’t have a dedicated child assistance program.

Instead, there is a universal Child Assistance Payment available to all parents until their child turns 18.

The amount a family receives depends on income and the number of kids. For one child, a family could receive $2,392 per year.

Only Quebec residents whose kids were born outside the province have to apply for the funding.


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