The Government of Ontario has announced that it will provide free emergency child care to eligible health care and frontline workers starting next week.
The initiative will be available for workers with elementary school-aged children and will begin on April 19, the province said on Thursday.
Workers who are performing “critical duties” in the fight against COVID-19 and cannot work remotely will be eligible for the service.
“Child care is an absolutely critical part of our fight against COVID-19, and will be key to our economic recovery,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“[The initiative] will allow these frontline workers to perform their duties knowing that their children are safe and in good hands.”
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The announcement comes just days after the province announced that elementary and secondary school students would move to online learning following the April break.
The province said the decision was made in response to a “rapid” rise in COVID-19 cases, the increased risk posed by the variants, and a “concerning” spike in hospital admissions.
The free child care initiative will be available to eligible workers throughout the remote learning period, officials said, adding that providing “safe, quality” childcare is a priority.
The full list of workers who qualify for the program includes:
- Health care workers, including doctors, nurses, health care providers and those who work in long-term care and retirement homes
- Individuals who manufacture or distribute medical/pharmaceutical supplies
- Individuals performing work in relation to the administration, distribution, or manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines
- Child care workers, including those staffing the emergency child care programs
- Grocery store and pharmacy workers
- Public safety (police, fire, paramedics, provincial inspection/enforcement) workers
- Justice/court and correctional system workers
- Frontline staff in Children’s Aid Societies and residential services
- Individuals working in developmental services, violence against women services, victims’ services, anti-human trafficking and those engaged in interpreting or intervenor services for people who are deaf or deaf-blind
- Individuals working in a homeless shelter or who provide services to homeless people
- Food safety inspectors and individuals working in the processing, manufacturing, or distribution of food and beverages
- OPS staff employed in Radiation Protection Services
- OPS staff performing critical tasks related to environmental monitoring, reporting, and laboratory services
- Certain federal employees, including the RCMP, Canada Border Services, Canadian Armed Forces, and Canada Post
- Power workers
- Non-municipal water and wastewater workers
- Workers involved in the collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing, or recycling of any type of waste
- Education staff who are required to attend schools to provide in-person instruction and support to students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning
- Employees of a hotel or motel that is acting as an isolation centre, health care centre, vaccine clinic, or that is housing essential workers
- Truck drivers and transit workers
- Construction workers
- Any individual whose child was registered in an emergency child care program delivered by a Consolidated Municipal Service Manager or District Social Service Administration Board between April 6 and 16, 2021
Since schools reopened in September 2020, there have been a total of 14,906 COVID-19 cases reported among more than two million public school students in Ontario.
To date, Ontario has seen 403,571 COVID-19 cases and 7,639 virus-related deaths.