UCP extends childcare program, but some operators say they’ve been left in the dark
CALGARY -- The Alberta government says it will extend the first phase of its $25-a-day child care pilot program until June, instead of ending it in March of this year as originally planned.
But some child care operators say the decision is putting undue pressure on their operations because program planning is difficult without knowing the province’s long-term plans.
Under the NDP government, a $25-a-day daycare program was rolled out to 22 operators across the province in April of 2017. The following year, it was expanded to include an additional 100 centres in Alberta. Each pilot program was supposed to run for three years.
Now, that timeline has been pushed back.
“We are extending the program for those 22 centres until June to ensure a smooth transition to childcare subsidies through the summer, as we work on a new bilateral funding agreement with the federal government,” said Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz in a statement to CTV News.
With the first phase of the program expected to finish at the end of March, some child care operators already sent out letters to parents explaining the subsidy would be coming to an end and fees would increase.
The Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association in Calgary was one of the 22 centres part of the first phase of the program and has been operating under the assumption that the pilot project would end in March, its executive director said.
Kate Stenson said she found out about the program extension through the media, not the children’s service ministry.
“The last time we heard from the minister of children’s services about the term of the grant was in the summer,” she said.
The Hillhurst-Sunnyside program is full with 150 children and has a wait list of another 150 kids.
“From the perspective of families, we’re happy to know that it gives us a few more months,” Stenson said, but added they will now have to make changes the organization’s budget.
“We’ve been hearing concerns and getting a lot of questions (from parents). Just as much as we’re budgeting, families are doing the same thing,” she said.
Though phase one of the program is being extended several months, the government has yet to make a long-term decision about its day care program.
“Reviewing the data from the $25/day pilot program will help inform how we move forward with child care in Alberta,” Minister Schulz said.