The provincial government is extending the deadline to opt into new child care fee reductions amid growing concerns from child care providers.
The province had originally given child care providers until April 1 to opt in.
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Providers were concerned about a delay in contracts being set. In some cases, they received legal advice not to sign the contracts.
“The contract has errors, such as referenced sections that do not exist (ex: section 13.4 referenced in section 8.2) and basic qualifying information, such as the number of dates in a month to be funded, is non-existent,” wrote B.C. Child Care Owners Association head Amanda Worms.
“Signing the contract, as is, would lead to a loss of income for providers, who would be bound to reduce fees by $350 for infant-toddler group care, but would not be receiving $350 back from the government.”
The B.C. government is extending the deadline until April 20. So far, 765 providers have handed in their contracts, with 85 per cent opting into the program.
The program is part of a $1-billion investment the government is making into child care over the next three years.
“After waiting so many years for action on child care, we’re going to make sure parents can start saving immediately,” said Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen.
“At the same time, we’re listening to providers and assisting those who want to come on board, but who want more information to complete the process of opting in.”
If child care providers opt in, they must agree not to raise fees for the rest of the year.
That has operators worried they will have to cover an unexpected surge in costs. Parents can be eligible to receive $350 per month for group infant and toddler care and $200 per month for family infant and toddler care.
All licensed child care providers who pass on the fee reduction will also receive a 10-per-cent funding boost for any spaces that government funds through the new program.
There are also concerns about a looming staff shortage.
Simon Fraser University’s 300-space child care centre is having a tough time recruiting — and retaining — quality candidates, said executive director Pat Frouws.
“The lack of educators is a crisis right now,” Frouws told Global News. “We’re trying to retain who we can, so the money is an issue.”