A pair of sisters who moved to Penticton from the Lower Mainland to open a childcare facility are lambasting the NDP government for failing to grant funds to open the much-needed centre, despite the province’s promise to address the childcare crisis in B.C.
Kristen Armstrong and Janine Demkier leased a three-floor home at 415 Wiltse Boulevard and started renovations to transform the space into an infant to 12-year-old childcare facility.
Armstrong, 31, and Demkier, 27, are both certified early childhood educators who specialize in infant/toddler care as well as special needs.
The pair sold their houses to chase their dream after determining there was high demand for another licensed childcare facility in Penticton.
“We contacted all of the childcare centres in Penticton and their waitlists were 50-100 families, so we really felt that this area needed a childcare centre immediately,” Demkier said.
Armstrong and Demkier said they named the centre ‘Two Peas in a Pod’ because they are sisters and best friends.
The pair hoped to receive a $250,000 provincial grant through the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund to cover 75 per cent of the capital project.
In July, the NDP government pledged $221-million to create 22,000 new childcare spaces in the province over the next three years.
“This is the single-largest investment to improve access to child care in B.C. history,” the province touted at the time.
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However, Armstrong and Demkier said accessing the funds has been a struggle.
They said they submitted their application in August, only to find out the wording of the application changed following their submission. They were denied funding.
“We’re very frustrated with the government. It is almost like they are making promises to all these people, the families, and then they are not delivering,” Demkier said.
“I’m feeling very frustrated to the point of being defeated,” Armstrong added.
“You’re trying to do exactly what the government is asking and we checked all of the boxes and yet we’re still getting denied.”
The sister said they already sunk $80,000 of their own money into the $400,000 project.
Their parents are now attempting to extend the line of credit on their home to fund the facility, as contractors are waiting to be paid.
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The aspiring childcare facilitators said the province told them to reapply and the application process would likely take another eight weeks, but they said they do not have time to wait.
The pair are committed to opening the childcare facility in January, regardless of provincial funding.
“If we don’t get the provincial grant, then for the next few years we will just suffer as families and we will make it through, but either way we’re going to open our doors,” Armstrong said.
“It’s our dream and we’re going to make our dream come true.”
The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development said it could not comment on specific applications, but said some of the reasons for rejections include incomplete information, like proof of financial contributions and detailed quotes for each budget item.
A ministry spokesperson confirmed there were ‘a few small changes’ to the application form, but said it would not have affected an applicant’s chance of receiving funding.
The ministry said staff have twice spoken to the provider and outlined the reasons they were denied the provincial grant, as well as offering feedback to help with future applications.
Technical issues have also prevented some users from downloading the application form, but the issues have now been resolved.
The form is available for download at www.gov.bc.ca/childcare/newspacesfund
Any provider having issues with accessing the form may call the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund Program on 1 888 338-6622 (option 5) for assistance.
The ministry spokesperson said it plans to start announcing the first successful projects under the new fund in the coming weeks.