The Ontario government is further expanding the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency child care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced that the list will now include parents and guardians in the food supply chain, retirement homes, grocery stores and pharmacies, truckers, interpreters who helped those who are hard of hearing, and certain federal employees, including the military.
To accommodate more children, 37 additional centres have been approved and will be reopening in the coming days.
“While our frontline workers are looking after us, we need to make sure we’re looking after them and their families,” Ford said.
“Providing emergency child care for our essential workers gives parents one less thing to worry about when they’re on the job saving lives, protecting us, or keeping shelves stocked with food and necessities.”
Since emergency child care was introduced on March 22, almost 100 child care centres have reopened along with 40 Licensed Home Child Care Agencies in communities across the province.
“We are providing emergency child care to more frontline workers because, in these unprecedented times, we will do whatever it takes to keep families safe and supported,” Lecce said. “They are making tremendous sacrifices every day, and we will be there for them every step of the way.”
Lecce also said that enhanced cleaning and screening protocols for the centres will be put in place to ensure the safety of the children.
“All staff will be screened, there will be a deep clean of all the centres. We have a zero-tolerance threshold,” Lecce said.
Ford also remarked that the coronavirus cases released on Wednesday were the lowest in three weeks, showing a positive trend.
“I can’t give you dates on when the economy can reopen, but I can give you hope,” Ford said.
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Over the weekend, the province announced the temporary pandemic pay for frontline workers, in recognition of the “dedication, long hours, and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the increase will $4/per hour worked on top of existing hourly wages, regardless of the qualified employee’s hourly wage. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month would receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for each of the next four months.
According to the province, this means that eligible employees working an average of 40 hours per week would receive $3,560 in additional compensation.