B.C. Premier John Horgan is defending the governments child care support program days before it will come into effect.
Child care providers have been critical of how challenging the registration process has been and how providers would be required to cut rates for parents without knowing if they have been approved for the provincial financial support.
“If we are cutting families and they are not able to access the services they need then we are cutting their earning potential,” said Horgan at a child care event on Wednesday morning in Coquitlam. “If we don’t provide child care our economy suffers.”
The way the program works is that child care providers must opt in to the program and promise they will pass the savings on to parents. Horgan says the deadline to opt in to the program has been extended until April 20 so that there is a clear understand of the benefits to families and to individual facilities.
The discounts are kicking in for parents on April 1, even though the application deadline was moved back.
The province has funded a $1-billion program over three years that will cut daycare costs by up to $350 a month for each child, depending on how old they are and whether they are in a licensed family or group daycare. The funding goes to the child care and the savings are passed on to parents.
“I have heard from many parents who will benefit from this. There is a little more that parents can now do,” said Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen. “We can not do this alone. We need to work with providers and the sector. We want to thank all the providers who have already signed up.”
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.
Child care operator Lucy-Ann Smith submitted her opt-in paperwork, but she is frustrated that she hasn’t heard anything back.
“I am still waiting to hear back to see if they’ve accepted my application to opt in so my families are in limbo because they don’t know what they are paying April 1, so as far as I’m concerned they are paying their regular fees and I’ll have to reimburse them,” Smith said.
For Smith, the up-front cost to provide savings for parents will be significant.
She said the province implemented the program poorly, leaving providers with limited time and information to make a decision that will affect them long-term.
The child care is supposed to pass the savings on to parents starting next week and that has left Smith not knowing what she should charge parents next week.
“I get that their intentions are good. I get it and I am glad that this money is coming into child care for these young families,” she said.
For Amanda Worms, owner of Little Owl Academy daycare, the big concern is the $350-a-month fee break that the 2018 budget promised parents. Worms says she’s not sure her facility can actually afford to cut fees — even with provincial help — but also doesn’t want to drive away parents.
“The administration part of it is a struggle to get this done for April 1. There’s a lot more questions that have come up now that the contracts are out. The math doesn’t make sense,” she told Global News before the deadline was extended.
With files from Liza Yuzda and Aaron McArthur