Alberta NDP opposition wants immediate funding for child care operators during COVID-19

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EDMONTON – Alberta’s opposition says the province must tap into surplus budget funds to allow child care program operators to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

NDP spokesman Rakhi Pancholi estimates the Children’s Services Department has around $ 70 million in unspent funds as smaller grants go to health centers due to reduced capacity due to COVID-19.

Pancholi says the money must be spent now as many operators face serious financial difficulties and may have to shut down as other COVID-19 support programs end.

“I have heard of countless child care programs that are about to close,” Pancholi, accompanied by some child care operators, said at a press conference Monday.

She said operators are still feeling the pinch as parents are reluctant to send children back to care centers or work from home or are unable to pay for care.

“Child care operators are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic, but now without the supports that came from the pandemic,” said Pancholi.

Heather Ratsoy, an Edmonton daycare operator who was with the NDP at the press conference, said numbers in her downtown area had dropped dramatically because businesses closed or employees were working from home.

“We are unable to meet our monthly expenses like rent, salaries, etc. Ratsoy said.

“(We) urgently need financial assistance from the province.

Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz was not available for an interview, but her office, in a statement, said: “We are seeing an increase in enrollments, which means more parents will have access to subsidy programs and that expenditure costs will increase.

“And with almost five months remaining in the fiscal year, it is premature to comment on unused funds.”

Schulz also announced that $ 15 million in bilateral child care money from the federal government will be used to help support child care workers during COVID-19.

“This funding will help strengthen child care programs that support children and their families in this province every day,” Schulz said in a press release.

The government said the $ 15 million would be used “for COVID-19 relief to further support operators as quickly as possible.”

He also announced that previously announced federal funding of $ 19 million has now been provided to help attract and retain child care workers.

Pancholi called the announcement a last-minute and ineffective diversion given that bilateral money comes with rules that cannot cope with the immediate crisis.

“The UCP hastily re-announced existing federal funding for the long-standing bilateral agreement, most of which cannot be used by suppliers to pay operational costs like rent or salaries,” Pancholi said.

She renewed her call for Schulz to strike a deal with the federal government on his multibillion-dollar, $ 10-a-day child care initiative.

Ottawa announced in the spring a five-year, $ 30 billion plan to partner with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities for universal child care – the cornerstone of a plan to help families and move forward. economy.

The plan targets 50 percent cost reduction, on average, by next year and $ 10 a day care over five years.

Most provinces and the Yukon have signed on, but Alberta and Ontario remain among the holdouts.

Schulz said Alberta is seeking a deal that recognizes the high percentage of for-profit child care in the province and respects the diversity of child care choices.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 8, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


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