$25 a day child care program expands
At 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning the Camrose Children's Centre entered a new chapter of affordable child care.
The province announced on Friday the expansion of a $25 a day child care program that started a year ago with Kid's Campus in Camrose being one of the first in the province to receive the benefit.
For parents at CCC, this represents, at minimum a 50 per cent reduction in their full-time fees.
"It’s amazing," said CCC executive director Ashley Bushell. "You know how many parents have walked through my doors with tears in their eyes and the biggest smiles? They say 'You don't know how much this has impacted our family.' It almost breaks my heart, it is so nice to hear that from them because they need that."
Under the initial phase of the pilot project, Kid's Campus was able to increase their capacity from 70 to 85 kids.
Camrose Children's Care has 80 spaces that will all fall under the program. The Wetaskiwin Early Childhood Development Centre also received funding for 76 spaces.
The standard full monthly rate for a child at CCC is $825, or $50 a day. The government subsidy will cut that in half. They have many parents who have two to three kids in care at the CCC, and the savings really start to add up. If they are saving $300 to $400 a month per kid, if there are three kids at the day care for one family, that very quickly adds up to a mortgage payment. Per kid, it's a savings of $3,600 to $4,800 a year.
Some families are already subsidized up to $546 a month per child, which means this expanded $25 a day program will mean their fees are reduced to zero.
The big impact here are on the low-middle class families or those who fall below the poverty line.
"We can look just at single moms who would like to go out and work, but if the cost of putting their child in daycare is equal to or more than they can get working, then they stay at home and look after their child, which is fine," said Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley. "But then they have no income other than what social assistance may be available. Social assistance is meant to be a safety net, not a livelihood. A lot of those single parents would rather earn more and this would provide that opportunity."
As part of the program, CCC has extended their hours to 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and for the first time they will be open on Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for parents who work weekends. To accommodate this, they have hired two additional full-time staff members.
The program now includes 7,300 spaces across the province and is expected to create 450 child-care jobs and help 1,400 parents enter or re-enter the workforce.
The second phase of the child care pilot project has been funded jointly by the federal government and the province for a period of three years. Both have put forward $45.6 million a year for funding — $44.5 million of the funds from the province going directly to services and $1.6 million to evaluation and IT and administrative costs. The federal funding is coming out of the Canada-Alberta bilateral agreement.
Hinkley says there are more child care centres eager to get in on the program but the funds will become available as the government can afford it.
To that end, Hinkley says this program can have a positive affect on the economy, from increased employment on site at the centres and parents re-entering the workforce and getting off of government assistance.
"Every dollar that we invest in child care, we will get it back plus (more) with people going back to work and paying taxes," he said. "We reduce our welfare costs and we increase our tax base."