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Cuts in child care funding could mean longer wait for spaces

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Author: 
Ruby, Michelle
Publication Date: 
3 May 2019
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A $685,000 cut in provincial funding for child care in Brantford is forcing city staff layoffs and could result in longer wait lists for subsidized spaces.

The province has ended a $50-million fund that helped child-care centres cover increasing labour costs without passing them on to parents.

In 2018, the city received $429,000 from that fund for local child-care operators.

The province is also reducing its general funding to the city for child care. In addition, municipalities now will be required to contripercentper cent of some operating costs to receive provincial funding.

“Municipally, we will need to contribute an additional $240,000 in order to receive the provincial allocation that provides for $1.6 million in funding for our 2019 budget in the areas of fee subsidies, general operating and special needs resourcing,” said Kathy Dickins, Brantford’s director of program support and children’s services.

“The municipality must also now contribute 50 percent of all administration costs. This amounts to just over $113,000 in 2019.”

The situation was discussed this week by the social services committee, including an in-camera meeting about city staffing reductions.

The city is responsible for planning and managing licensed childcare services in the community. The city receives funds for a range of programs, including fee subsidies to parents, operating and wage grants to licensed child-care operators and administering a special needs program.

There are currently more than 800 families in Brantford and Brant County who receive fee subsidies, based on household income, for child care and about 100 on a waiting list for a subsidy.

Dickins said that wait list is expected to increase.

Ontario's so-called fee stabilization support was introduced last year under the then-Liberal government as the minimum wage increased from $11.60 an hour to $14 an hour. It was essentially a way to subsidize the pay raises in facilities where staff had earned less than $14 an hour, so the costs weren’t put on parents in the form of higher fees.

That funding ended as of March 31, the Progressive Conservative government told child–care operators in mid-April. Any money that flowed to them after that date “will be recovered,” a memo said.

Will Bouma, MPP for Brantford-Brant, said the province is making changes to provide child-care services more cost effectively and offer parents more choice.

The Progressive Conservative’s Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit was announced last month in the province’s budget.

The tax credit is based on a sliding scale depending on household income. Under the tax credit, families with children under seven would receive up to $6,000 and children, aged seven to 16, would get $3,750. Children with a severe disability would receive up to $8,250.

Depending on age, full day-care fees in Brantford and Brant range from $39 to $51, with some infant rates of $53 a day, said Dickins.

“The situation in the province is unsustainable,” said Bouma.

“Our government feels very strongly there are more efficient, better ways to provide child care. This is an opportunity for parents to place their kids in better situations than just giving it to the City of Brantford to administer. We look forward to doing a better job for less money and offering different programs for kids.”

Those programs include in-home daycare and camps.

Families have to keep their receipts for their child-care expenses and can start to claim the tax credit starting with the 2019 tax year.

City Coun. Rick Weaver, chair of the social services committee, said there are many families who can’t afford to make up-front payments.

“People are living paycheque to paycheque,” he said.

Weaver said some single parents won’t be able to continue to work and there is a risk of substandard care from private day-care providers.

He was also critical of the way the province is announcing funding cuts that are being downloaded to municipalities. Members of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario, which includes Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis, recently released a statement calling on the provincial government to postpone cuts they say are being downloaded “by stealth.”

“All these things keep coming out piecemeal,” said Weaver, noting that the city has already set its 2019 budget. “We deal with one thing and the next thing comes. A lot of MPPs used to be councillors. They know our processes.”

Brant County Coun. David Miller, who is a member of the social services committee, said municipalities have to brace for less provincial funding.

“The reality is that, rightly or wrongly, we are going to see less dollars flowing to municipalities,” he said.

“This report (on child care) can be used as a template on how we’re going to deal with it. We have to look at efficiencies and staffing levels and fees. We’re going to have some very difficult decisions to make.”

 

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Entered Date: 
8 May 2019
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