The operator of a group of Vancouver Island daycares says delays and hiccups in the province’s new child care funding model have left staff and parents stressed and facing the fear of unexpected fee hikes next month.
Under the new $3.2-billion program, which took effect in December, the average per-child cost of daycare dropped from $53 to $21, a monthly saving for some families of about $550.
But Alisha Neumann, executive director of the Inquiring Little Minds (ILM) child care facilities, said she was recently forced to tell parents at some of her nine daycares they may be on the hook for full payments, amid uncertainty about funding coming through.
“It’s always a tough time in order to get that all sorted out with the government as they’re trying to get all the contracts approved for the province, so I appreciate they’re having a tough time themselves, but it’s stressful for us because we don’t know what’s going on or when our money is coming in or what that is going to look like for next month,” she said.
Fee subsidy funding for B.C. daycares is renewed annually, with contracts expiring on March 31.
Neumann said spotty communication from the province has left it unclear if all of the ILM daycares are fully approved or funded, with the deadline ticking down to the last contract’s expiry.
That uncertainty has left the company with a shortfall of about $70,000, and scrambling to cover wages for 65 employees.
“It’s a very stressful situation to be in for sure. Most of the time what happens when we’re in a situation like this, I personally use my own personal line of credit to cover for paycheques, for rent, for things we see a shortfall in,” she said.
“But unfortunately we’ve just gotten too big and it’s just too much money that my line of credit doesn’t cover for that anymore.”
BC NDP Minister of State for Childcare Grace Lore said the backlog in applications is clearing, with more than 90 per cent of applicants approved or temporarily approved, with money flowing for April.
“Those approvals are through, providers can submit their pre-claiming for Apr. 1, and with some exception of providers who are requesting beyond the fee cap for Apr. 1, there is going to be no disruption to families savings or to providers,” she said.
“We’re continuing to hear from providers. I spoke to many last week on how we can improve the system going forward, both in terms of communication and ease of the process.”
Neumann only received temporary funding approval for the last of her daycare centres on Saturday, after she had received an earful from stressed and angry parents who’d been informed they may have to find a way to pay substantially higher fees.
She wants to see the province starting the annual application process much earlier to give both operators and government workers more time to process them and to roll out approvals earlier.
“The problem is that this has happened for at least the last four years and there has been no change from the province in the way they deal with our funding,” she said.
“We need to start this process far sooner. We need to have our approvals way before march happens so that way we can give reassurance to the providers and to parents at the same time that everybody can pay their rent and nobody will be late on payments.
“It’s a tough situation we’re all in.”
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