More than $620,000 in funding has been lost to the City of Kawartha Lakes for licensed childcare spaces due to cuts from the provincial PC government.
Within that pot, nearly $258,000 was for general allocation funding. This money is used for child care fee subsidies for low-income families and general operating costs.
The remaining amount, more than $360,000 is being eliminated through cost sharing changes. In what was once a 100 per cent boost from the Province, it is now a forced 80-20 cost-sharing agreement between Province and Municipality. This includes reductions in the administration allowances (from 10 per cent down to 5 per cent).
Cheri Davidson, manager of communications, advertising, and marketing for the City of Kawartha Lakes, says they are interested to learn more from the Province about these upcoming changes, considering the municipal budget was already set.
The City had already passed its own budget prior to this provincial change and no consultations were made with municipalities by the provincial government.
“For now, and the remainder of the 2019 budget, we are operating as status quo. We will be providing a financial update to Council on June 11 and part of this will include changes from the Province that affect various areas of our service delivery, including child care, ambulance services and more.”
Sheila Olan-MacLean, CEO of Compass Early Learning & Care, expresses some serious concerns due to the funding cuts for licensed childcare.
“We don’t have a lot of information yet and aren’t sure about all of the effects from the funding loss,” she tells the Advocate.
“Most likely the fees for parents will go up with the general operating grant being cut.”
The other concern is the staff-to child ratios in home child care. Olin explains that the rule was “two children under two-years-old.”
That has now changed to three children under two, a dangerous change because the idea was that “in an emergency one child could be placed under each arm and carried to safety.”
“Now this can’t happen.”
Also, an additional three children ages two to three can now be added to the three children under age two.
“Regulations are being watered down right now in home childcare especially,” says Olan-MacLean.
This won’t help with attracting new frontline staff either.
“ECE recruitment is already a challenge,” she says.
According to a recent OECD (2019) report on net childcare cost for parents using childcare, two parents earning average wages with two children are spending 24 per cent of their net income on childcare already in Canada.
Olan-MacLean, who is also the president of Ontario Coalition for Childcare, encourages parents to email their MPP and talk about the importance of childcare programs. She says any cuts to childcare are “not okay.”
“With prices expected to go up now, it could force some to choose not to work. Some parents may not be able to afford it or may choose possibly unsafe environments to save money.”
Additional funds will also be lost with the recent phase out of ‘fee stabilization.’
This was funding that was used to support child care programs’ transition to the increased minimum wage of the past two years and to help control the costs of childcare fees. The wage enhancement grant of $2 an hour for Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) is being maintained, but the funding to keep the child care centres doors open in the first place is being reduced.