Daycares hear from province on subsidy approval

Terrace daycare centre said they expect to see funds come through this week for families

A Terrace daycare said they were approved on Thursday to receive childcare subsidies from the province, while providers still waiting were advised by the province to charge full fees for parents until they receive a formal confirmation.

Terry Walker, manager for the Terrace Daycare Centre, said the initiative is the “first step” towards ensuring quality daycare is affordable in B.C.

A spokesperson for the Ministry said staff are busy reviewing the opt-in applications received, and those submitted on or before March 27 are currently under final review. Providers with complete applications who have handed in all requested information should be advised by April 20 on the outcome.

Even though the Terrace Daycare Centre offers low fees in the community, parents with two children in their infant and toddler program could still be paying over $1,000 a month for daycare, according to Walker.

“I’m just delighted with this,” Walker said. “We’ve been working so hard towards something like this and it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The new fee-reduction program for children under age six will save families, regardless of income, $350 per month for an infant in care as long as the facility is licensed and the operator has opted-in. A family with an infant in a licenced home facility will have fees reduced by $200 per month. The reductions are lower for three to five year olds, but providers were told they could see money in their bank accounts by April.

“In this day and age it is so imperative that two parents work and then when they have these high costs for child care it’s really tough on the families, so I’m really happy and really excited to get this,” Walker said.

The non-profit decided to opt-in in March and applied the fee reduction to invoices sent out to families on Tuesday, even though they hadn’t been officially approved yet. But they didn’t have to wait long after the invoices were sent out, and received news from the province two days later.

Walker said she expects to see the subsidies come through in the next two to three days, which will offer a “significant break” for families.

While some concerns have been voiced regarding the rollout of the program, Walker said for the Terrace Daycare Society it was a very straightforward and well-outlined process.

“The information they sent out was very clear, and I posted it for parents and was able to have a discussion with them,” Walker said, who has worked as an early childhood educator for the past 20 years. “It wasn’t a big deal for us.”

Paces Daycare, another non-profit daycare in Terrace, has not heard back yet if their application was approved despite making the decision to opt-in soon after hearing about the initiative announced in late February.

Nancy Dumais, the manager for Paces, said they have 40 families with children in their infant toddler program who are eligible to receive the $350 subsidy this month but aren’t sure how to proceed without definitive answers from the province.

“Do I invoice people and then pay them back? Am I not invoicing people and then I’m out those $350 dollars?” Dumais said over the phone. “It’s got a pretty significant impact on us.”

The centre has already given eligible families with children over the age of three the up-to-$100 fee reduction for this month, but Dumais said she isn’t sure if they can do the same for the larger subsidy yet.

“I had high hopes and am still supportive of it, but now that this is hitting close to home it makes me think that maybe there should have been a different approach,” Dumais said. “I’m in a jam now, really.”

Now Dumais said because she made the decision not to invoice families and credit them later, the facility doesn’t have money left in their bank account to use for their next payroll call.

If providers applied after March 27, the ministry said it will continue to review applications in the order they were received, and the ministry will advise facilities of their status as soon as possible, according to a ministry spokesperson.

“If a provider has not yet received confirmation that they have been approved to participate in the initiative, the ministry suggests that they continue to charge full fees for their parents until they have received formal confirmation from the ministry.”

Morgan Reinsbakken, an art therapist in Terrace, currently has her daughter attending Paces’ new program for children between the ages of three and five once a week, which costs $50 a day, or around $200 a month.

The child-care subsidy will shave off $5 a day, or $30 a month, for Reinsbakken. She said the amount is helpful but not enough to justify putting her daughter in for a second day per week at the moment.

“It’s really important to me that she goes in two days a week but feasibly we can’t afford it,” Reinsbakken said.

Evan Ramsay, father of two said he pays $700 a month on average at Willow Creek Daycare. He said he has recently been spending more time with his son working at home during the week instead, coordinating with his wife to offset the cost of full-time daycare.

He said he doesn’t know how much of a benefit he would be eligible for yet but is working on finding out more information, caught in between phone calls to the B.C. service and ministry offices.

“I’ve been carrying around the subsidy paperwork for quite some time,” Ramsay said in an online message.

Starting in September 2018 another affordable child care benefit will help to reduce childcare fees. Families with incomes of up to $111,000 may be eligible to apply online.

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