Parent Meaghan Zelowsky reads a book last year to her daughters Zosia and Fira, who attended Pines Day Care. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer child care agencies face difficult decisions

Province reviewing $25 a day child care

The Red Deer Child Care Society is struggling to decide how to reduce costs to accommodate funding cuts from the province.

In mid-December, child care agencies were alerted that a provincial grant, which offsets payroll deduction costs such as Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance contributions for front-line staff, will be eliminated starting April 1.

Society co-chair Jennifer Winters said none of the options to make up that loss in revenue are good.

“The economy is not great, so we don’t want to increase parents’ fees and ask them to pay more. Child care wages are already low. How can we think of rolling them back?” Winters said.

She said increasing fees impacts parents’ ability to access child care. Staff could be lost and programs reduced if wages shrink.

Winters said she would like the province to reconsider its decision. As a non-profit, the society’s bottom line is already tight.

Cameron Wiebe, co-owner and director of Lotsa Tots Childcare, said the only way for his agency to make up the difference is to increase fees. Typically, fees increase every year due to rising costs.

“Normally, that is accompanied by an increase in staff payments. This time, we won’t be able to,” Wiebe said.

He said typical full-time care for a child will increase about $300 a year, which may not compare to insurance hikes and higher dental costs, but “it definitely takes its toll.”

He said the child care industry has been anticipating cuts since the 2019 provincial election, despite plenty of research against it.

“It’s been said many, many times before. An investment in early education pays for itself over and over again. Cutting funding to child care is really short-sighted,” Wiebe said.

On Wednesday, the NDP criticized the province for eliminating some of the $25-a-day child care programs in June. Other will continue until March 2021.

“This news means some parents will have to quit their jobs to stay home, and let’s be honest, many of them are women.

“If Jason Kenney and the UCP are serious about parent choice and getting people back to work, they should be supporting the NDP’s $25-a-day child care program,” said Rakhi Pancholi, the NDP’s children’s services critic, in a press release.

Related:

New Democrats would bring in $25 daycare if re-elected: Notley

$25-a-day child care in high demand in Red Deer

Winters expects the society’s $25-a-day program will continue until March 2021, but she has not received official notice from the government.

She said the province started investing in child care in the early 2000s, when it developed an accreditation program and began topping up front-line staff wages, which was great.

“Child care is a really difficult field. It’s high stress, so there’s a lot of turnover.

“Taking away that top up would be catastrophic to the child care industry,” Winters said.

A statement from Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said the province continues to support the wage top ups, which are among the most generous in the country, and professional development funding.

The province also increased funding to the child care subsidy program.

“Our government is committed to fiscal responsibility and directing government funding where it is needed most. Therefore, the decision was made to discontinue the Benefit Contribution Grant and the Staff Attraction Incentive,” Schulz said.

She said some families received notice of the $25-a-day child care pilot ending at their child care centre, which reflects the original terms of the agreement for the first 22 centres, as established under the former government.

“However, we are extending the program for those 22 centres until June to ensure a smooth transition through the summer as we work on a new bilateral funding agreement with the federal government. Reviewing the data from the $25-a-day pilot program will help inform how we move forward with child care in Alberta.”



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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