MORE than 2,500 essential service workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have been referred to open child care spaces through the Province’s new child care matching process.
The Province said on Thursday that less than a month after it launched its new child care matching process, essential service workers throughout British Columbia are dropping their children off at licensed child care spaces in their communities.
More than 2,650 essential service workers have been referred to a licensed child care provider through the Province’s matching plan. This process helps match parents, who are working on the front lines of B.C.’s COVID-19 response and have children up to five years of age, with licensed child care spaces.
The spaces are prioritized for children whose parents work in public health and health services, social services and law enforcement, first responders and emergency response sectors. Additional spaces are going to families working in other essential roles.
For essential service workers with children older than five years, the Ministry of Education has been working closely with school districts and independent schools to ensure these students have access to in-school supports during regular school hours and access to care before and after school hours.
The Province is supporting thousands of child care centres during the COVID-19 crisis. So far, the government has invested $38 million to ensure essential service workers continue to have access to reliable licensed child care, and centres that close are able to reopen.
As of April 16, 2,530 child care centres offering up to 58,650 spaces around B.C. are receiving funding through the Temporary Emergency Funding Program to remain open. The program provides eligible licensed providers with funding at a rate of seven times their average monthly child care operating base funding.
Child care centres receiving this funding continue to be eligible for the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative and the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Wage Enhancement. The fee reduction helps parents by providing funding for licensed child care providers to reduce and stabilize their monthly child care fees. The wage enhancement has provided nearly 12,000 ECEs with a $1-per-hour wage enhancement, which increased to $2 per hour on April 1, 2020, to better recognize the work they do.
In addition, families accessing care from these providers may be eligible for the Affordable Child Care Benefit. As of March 2020, more than 51,500 families have benefited from it.
Child care providers who have closed due to COVID-19 are also receiving support to help ensure they are able to pay their fixed costs – like rent, lease and mortgage payments – during the temporary closure, so they will be able to reopen. Just over 1,400 facilities have closed and are receiving two times their average monthly operating funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 20% of an average group facility’s monthly operating expenses. Smaller licensed home-based child care providers are eligible for these supports.
To support families who may be struggling with loss of employment and income, child care providers receiving these extra 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.
As British Columbians navigate these uncertain times together, parents who can are asked to continue to care for their children at home. All children and staff who are ill with a fever, or have cold, influenza or infectious respiratory symptoms of any kind, must stay home.
The government said it will continue to be guided by the recommendations and advice of the provincial health officer to ensure British Columbia continues to stop the spread of COVID-19, while looking at safe ways to resume important aspects of society, including child care. The provincial health officer and B.C. government have designated that essential service workers get priority access to child care so they can continue to provide the essential services people rely on in their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.