Days before new B.C. child care deadline, providers say they’re still in the dark

B.C. child care providers say they're getting radio silence from the province on the status of their contracts. Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

Just days ahead of an already pushed-back deadline for daycare centres to opt-in to the province’s new child care fee reduction program, many applicants say they’re still waiting for answers.

Late last month, the province extended the original April 1 deadline by nearly three weeks after providers expressed concerns about government contracts, including errors and discrepancies.

“We’re processing applications as soon as possible and we’re wanting to make sure parents get the payment as soon as possible,” said minister Katrina Chen.

She said the government has approved funding for 33,000 childcare spaces and have looked at 2,200 applications.

READ MORE: B.C. extends deadline for child care providers to opt into fee reduction

The program, part of the NDP’s $1-billion child care package, offers a provincial subsidy of $60-$350 per child to licensed child care providers as a means of reducing fees for parents.

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Wanda Bratt was among the providers who handed in their contracts by the original deadline, but she says she’s now having trouble getting any information out of the province.

“I tried to have it in by the first of the month because that was going to be the cut off to be able to get the money in a timely manner, so I submitted that paperwork and then I’ve just waited,” Bratt told Global News.

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She said when she called for an update, she said got a recorded message saying that call centre staff were unable to access information about the status of individual applications, and that she wasn’t given the opportunity to request a call back.

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Bratt says that while her operating grant renewal has been processed, she still doesn’t know if she’s been approved for the fee reduction.

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“I figured it would take them some time to get all of this sorted around but it’s now the 18th of the month and I haven’t received that portion,” Bratt said.

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Other daycare providers say they have been approved for the opt-in, filed the paperwork but have yet to see a payment.

The government’s new deadline is Friday.

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Global News has requested comment from the Ministry of Children and Family Development about the communication issues with providers.

Despite repeated requests for information, Global News was unable to confirm how many applications are left to be processed ahead of the deadline.

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As of the end of March, there were 3,500 licensed child care providers in B.C. with previously existing provincial contracts, of which 900 had been processed.

However, the ministry didn’t say how many were approved for the new program.

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A parent from Langley says her daycare is still deciding if it should opt-in. Gabrielle Garon said the daycare is also hitting a dead-end with the government despite having two days left.

“They are waiting on the ministry’s response,” said Garon. “The ministry has been overwhelmed and it’s been very slow to respond. As a result, we’re going on a month now where credits could be receiving credits, but nothing.”

She said she’s lucky as she is not under any financial stress, but noted many parents need the fee reductions.

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  • With files from Emily Lazatin

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