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Daycare grants nixed by province

Letter-writing campaign now underway
daycare winter
The Westlock Child Care Society recently learned that two long-standing provincial grant programs will be discontinued this spring, resulting in a $2,000 per month shortfall. Daycare executive director Christine Villeneuve has started a letter-writing campaign in the hopes of having the programs spared. Chris Zwick/WN

WESTLOCK - The Westlock Child Care Society could be in tough come this spring as the province has pulled two grant programs meant to attract and retain qualified staff and help offset the costs of mandatory payroll contributions.

A Dec. 11 letter sent to childcare organizations across the province from Alberta Children’s Services stated the Benefit Contribution Grant and the Staff Attraction Incentive programs would be discontinued April 1, 2020.

Child care society executive director Christine Villeneuve was taken aback by the announcement and is now trying to figure out where she is going to find an additional $2,000 per month. Her options are limited to raising fees for families, or decreasing staff and their pay.

She has also started a letter-writing campaign she hopes will get the minister’s attention and perhaps a second thought on eliminating the long-standing funding arrangements.

“This affects every single accredited program in the province, of which there are hundreds and hundreds. It affects each of us financially, but it also affects every single family,” said Villeneuve.

“I’ll either have to increase fees, $24,000 in fees for our program is significant. That’s either a staff layoff, which impacts the quality of our programming; or I’ll have to reduce wages, which nobody wants to do; or I’ll have to increase parent fees to cover that cost.”

The Benefit Contribution Grant was meant to target the contributions that are the result of additional staff support funding that is also paid for by the government. It was designed to offset the costs of mandatory employer payroll contributions like the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, vacation pay and statutory holiday pay.

The BCG would provide an extra 16 per cent of the staff support funding to cover the contribution amount for the extra top-ups.

The Staff Attraction Incentive programs gave new, qualified staff members a bonus $2,500 at the end of a year of employment.

“I think the more that the public and the community across Alberta becomes aware of what early childhood education means and the future benefits of what we do, the more support we’ll have. In supporting our children now, they become better adjusted adults later in life,” said Villeneuve.

“My hope would be that the government realizes the quality of educators is key for children’s’ success. The education of our staff is what allows us to have such a quality program and I feel that the government not recognizing that will be harmful to children later in life.”

For the government’s part, the letter goes on to say that over the next year the Child Care Licensing Act will be reviewed as it is set to expire next fall.

“This process will help ensure the child care system and its legislation reflect the needs of the industry, and most importantly, the children and families it serves. We are committed to developing a system that focuses on quality care for children and families and taking into account the diverse needs of parents, families, operators and professionals in Alberta. We will ensure there are opportunities to provide your input.”

Villeneuve encourages parents and residents to get involved with her letter-writing campaign. The letter template can be found at the Westlock Child Care Society website and its Facebook page.

“I’m in a really, really tough spot,” she said.

About the Author: Chris Zwick

Athabasca Advocate editor
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