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$33-million restored to child-care subsidy [CA-BC]

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Author: 
Rud, Jeff
Publication Date: 
27 Oct 2004
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$33-million injection into B.C.'s child-care subsidy program will make 10,000 more children eligible for benefits, the province said Tuesday.

Minister of Children and Family Development Stan Hagen said the funding increase will also mean a raise in the subsidy amount received by thousands of children already in the program.

"With this $33-million boost, we're creating a stable, sustainable child care system, and we're doing so in a responsible, accountable way," Hagen said in a release heralding the increase. "We're making sure more families in need are eligible, and that they have a choice of child care providers in their communities."

But NDP Leader Carole James, who before entering provincial politics was director of child care under the previous NDP government, said the B.C. Liberals are merely reinstating a portion of what they cut after winning office in 2001.

James said the current government slashed its child-care budget to $156 million from $198 million. Now it is using federal government early childhood transfer money to add back some of what it cut, she said.

"Obviously, any money going into child care is a positive, considering how much they've taken out," James said. "But this doesn't make up for the cuts that they've made in child care over the last 31/2 years."

Ministry statistics show that 27,000 B.C. children receive child-care subsidy payments. The government provides a monthly child-care subsidy to eligible low-income families to help support them in obtaining education, training and jobs.

Hagen said beginning Jan. 1, the monthly income "threshold" for families to be eligible to receive the subsidy will be raised by $200, leaving "thousands" more families in higher income brackets eligible.

Families who have children under six in regulated care will see their subsidy increased. As well, parents' student loans will no longer be factored into income thresholds when determining subsidy eligibility.

The monthly income threshold for parents with special needs children will also rise by an additional $100. As well, these family's subsidies will increase to $150 from $107 a month.

"We recognize the challenge many B.C. families face in affording child care, and that's why we've targeted this funding to low-income families, children with special needs and eligible parents with student loans," Hagen said.

Provincial Child Care Council chairwoman Wendy Cooper said the changes would make "a positive difference to a lot of families."

But James pointed out that the government's announcement comes on the heels of an Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development report, which criticized B.C.'s child-care setup.

"I find it interesting that child care is now a priority when we're seven months away from the election, but it's been no priority for the last 31/2 years," James said.

"It's interesting timing that they would come out with this new money today. But it does nothing to address the criticism. They cut the subsidy program when they got in. They made the (threshold) higher, so basically fewer parents were able to access child-care subsidies and now they're lowering it again."

Roughly half of the $33-million injection was federal early childhood money, Hagen said.

James said the province has been misusing this money to prop up existing programs rather than create new ones, the intention of such transfer funds.

Hagen defended the government's move, saying there has been no increase to these subsidy programs for 10 years. "I think everybody knew it needed to be addressed. I can remember the premier raising this for the first time at the cabinet table about three years ago. And it was really as a result of his pushing that all of this stuff was centralized under my ministry about three or four months ago."

Hagen said the formula used to determine child-care subsidy eligibility is complicated. But his ministry provided some examples:

- For a single parent attending school, with a five-year-old in family child care and a three-year-old attending preschool, with a net monthly income of $1,400 in student loans and $300 in child support, the monthly child-care subsidy increases to $527 from the current $389. Over a full year, that works out to an increase of $1,656.

- For two parents, both working, with three children, ages three-, four- and five-years-old and attending group child care, with a net monthly income of $1,800, the subsidy rises from $1,104 to $1,182, an increase of $936 over a year.

- reprinted from the Victoria Times-Colonist

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Entered Date: 
29 Oct 2004
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