In a move that is meant to support the childcare sector while ensuring parents working during the COVID-19 pandemic have access to childcare centres, the BC government said it is taking steps to offer funding to providers.
According to the province, the move comes in light of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advising all parents to care for their children at home if they can. “She also recognized that while some centres may close, childcare services can and must be provided in a safe manner for those families whose parents work in critical roles,” the government said in a release.
As such, the provincial government will give open centres compensation to continue operating with reduced enrollment. Centres that close will also receive support for fixed operating costs, like rent or lease payments.
“As a former early childhood educator (ECE), I understand how difficult this time is for those working in the childcare sector,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “We are working hard with the Ministry of Health to address concerns.”
Conroy said she has heard “from many childcare providers and ECEs who want to stay open to support families and essential service workers at this time.”
The newly announced measures, she said, “will give them the support they deserve and the tools they need to continue safely caring for children.”
According to the province, childcare providers staying open are eligible to receive seven times their average monthly funding from government. Childcare centres remaining open will continue to receive ECE wage enhancements for their staff.
Childcare providers who close due to COVID-19 will also receive support to help ensure they are able to pay their fixed costs during the temporary closure so that they can reopen when they’re able to, the government said. These centres are eligible to receive two times their average monthly funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 20% of an average group facility’s monthly operating expenses.
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Smaller home-based childcare providers are also eligible for these supports.
“I have received many messages from parents, providers and ECEs as this situation has evolved and this feedback has informed our way forward,” said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. “These measures will provide some financial support to childcare providers who need to close until they can return to providing services for families and ensure parents don’t face the economic burden of paying fees for services they aren’t using.”
To support families who may be struggling with loss of employment and income, the government said childcare providers receiving these payments “must not charge parents fees for any periods of closure or for any vacant spaces while they are open, including when a parent chooses to temporarily withdraw a child due to COVID-19.”
They must also agree to reserve spaces for families that were accessing their services before the pandemic, even if these families choose to temporarily withdraw, “so families can be assured their spot will still be there once the pandemic passes.”