The Nova Scotia government says it will spend $8.9 million to create 1,000 new regulated child-care spaces across the province.
The money, part of a $35-million deal with Ottawa aimed at making care more affordable, is to be spent by the end of the current fiscal year.
Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill said $6.9 million will be used to create 500 spaces in 90 home-based, regulated settings. Another 500 spaces will be part of 15 new regulated child-care centres.
“The bulk of the dollars … is for strategic growth in areas where there are child-care deserts – where there is a shortage (of centres) and where there is none,” said Churchill.
The province currently has 880 daycare spaces.
Eleven of the province’s 18 counties have been targeted, including the province’s two largest municipalities – the Region of Halifax and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
The other areas include Colchester, Hants, Inverness, Kings, Lunenburg, Pictou, Queens, Shelburne and Yarmouth counties.
Churchill said the remaining $2 million has been designated for a one-time grant in 2018-19 to help existing centres convert their spaces.
He said that portion of the funding was “in part” to help daycares adjust to the loss of four-year-olds as a result of the province’s universal pre-primary program. The funding package also includes a subsidy of $4 per head for regulated centres and $2 for family home daycares.
“Funding will be available to make adjustments to their facilities for infant care, or to make their facilities more inclusive,” Churchill said.
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He said in many cases the businesses are private or not-for-profit, so the government will need the sector’s expertise to identify where the best locations are for the new centres.
“We have a tight federal timeline, but anybody who is having a difficult time meeting the deadline, we will work with them on that.”
In an email, the department said while funding applications are to be processed by the end of this month, operators will have 12 months to complete the work and spend the money.
It said the information was released to the sector on Feb. 9 and the deadline for proposals is March 16.
“There is a great deal of interest from the sector. While any unused funding will not carry over to the next year, we don’t anticipate that to be a factor.”