Some Alberta families at risk of returning to full child-care fees in 2024

Affordable child care is essential for working families like Scott Quans’.

“That’s the main reason we picked the programs that we did, because they have the $10/day daycare. If not we wouldn’t be able to work because we’d be working to pay for daycare, and that’s just not viable,” said Quans.

But, come February, Sunny South Daycare, where his three children attend, may have to return to charging full fees.

“Our fees would go from, right now, we’re paying about $600 a month to $3,000 a month if all three of them have to keep going,” said Quan.

That hike is because child-care operators have an upcoming deadline to sign the 2024/25 Affordability Grant for child-care agreement, which Bailee Procee, director of Sunny South, said is handcuffing providers.

“We’re extremely excited for our families to have this funding and make child care more affordable, but it is coming at a severe cost to us as operators,” said Procee.

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“It’s very similar to the agreement that’s currently in place, and it’s going to carry us for the next 15 months until we’re into the next phase of the C.W.E.L.C (Canada-Alberta Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement) program, which is the cost control core and enhanced programs,” said Krystal Churcher, Association of Alberta Child Care Entrepreneurs chair.

Child-care providers in this agreement have to float costs until they can apply for funding at the end of the month, as well, they aren’t able to raise their fees to combat the impact of inflation on their business.

“We’ve been lobbying since we signed the original agreement for these fees to be paid directly to parents to remove childcare operators as the middlemen. We’ve always been looking for fair inflationary increases,” said Churcher. “Three per cent, when inflation is double or triple that, and food costs are so high is ridiculous. This is an all-or-nothing agreement. You cannot access wage top-ups for your staff, you can’t access subsidies for low-income families in your center, unless you opt-in to the affordability grant and to the $10 a day program.”

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Procee explained to keep afloat, they may have to opt-out of the agreement.

“If we don’t sign by Jan. 31, we would lose out on funding for January, meaning our parents wouldn’t get the grant money, they wouldn’t get subsidy, so we’re talking thousands of dollars,” said Procee.

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With waitlists like Sunny South sitting at more than 400 children, there’s also no easy solution for parents.

“It’s just not fiscally feasible for us to pay for three kids to be going to that daycare at full fees, so that may change how we parent and how we work,” said Quan.

The plan started in 2022 to help reduce fees for parents of children up to kindergarten-age by an average of half. By 2026, the goal is for parents to pay an average of $10 a day.

“You’ll hear you know, we’ve been given six per cent, or we’ve been given three per cent in these agreements. Inflation has been significantly higher than three per cent per year,” said Churcher.

The Ministry of Children and Family Services provided Global News with the following statement:

“Alberta’s government is focused on ensuring life remains affordable for families and businesses. Affordable child care creates opportunities, keeping money in the pockets of parents. We have provided funding directly to operators that amounts to a three per cent increase in program fees to help cover increased costs of doing business. This will ensure fee increases are not passed on to parents.

To further support operators while reducing parent fees, we’ve been replacing the revenue operators previously received from parents with the Affordability Grant. Through this grant, operators receive the same amount of money monthly from government that they would from parents. Operators also received approximately $32.8 million in 2023 through a one-time grant assisting with inflationary and administrative costs. Operators continue to receive funding to support wage top-ups, Infant Care Incentives (children 0 to 18 months), subsidies for eligible families and other supports such as professional development funding.

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Alberta’s government is also offering a one-time grant early next year for operators who submitted their financial reporting for the 2022-23 Affordability Grant that ended on March 31, 2022. This grant will help cover some of the costs of associated with financial reporting requirements. Child-care operators have until the end of January 2024 to sign their affordability grant agreements.

Parents who are looking for information or have concerns about child care programs in their community can call the toll-free Child Care Connect line at 1-844-5165 or email [email protected] for support and assistance.”

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