Alberta child care programs to receive funding boost as part of federal government’s Safe Restart Agreement

Licensed and approved child care programs in Alberta will receive a funding boost to the tune of $87 million to help cover increased costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Licensed day care, out-of-school care, family day homes, group family child care, innovative child care and preschool programs will be eligible for the funding.

The money is coming from both the provincial and federal government levels, as part of Alberta’s previously announced Recovery Plan, as well as the federal government’s Safe Restart Agreement.

Read more: Alberta daycares continue to navigate pandemic as restrictions ease

The money can be used to help operators purchase additional cleaning supplies, safety equipment and other upgrades needed to comply with health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the province said in a news release Tuesday.

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“This funding will ensure safe, reliable child care continues to be available as it is a crucial part of Alberta’s economic recovery,” Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz said in a news release.

“We are providing support to child care and early learning programs throughout the fall so they can keep their centres safe for kids in their care.”

The Alberta government said the $87 million in total funding breaks down as follows:

Read more: Alberta offers grants to child care centres, day homes to prepare for relaunch

The province said $15 million of the funding was already provided in September ($109 per licensed/approved space). The Safe Restart Agreement payments will be distributed on Oct. 15 and Nov. 15 ($200 per licensed/approved space, plus $2,500 per licensed program or approved agency, each month).

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According to the province, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 109,000 — or about 15 per cent of Alberta children — were enrolled in a licensed child care program and about 80 per cent of licensed spaces in Alberta were filled.

As of Sept. 11, about 83 per cent of licensed daycares, out-of-school care and preschools were open with a 52 per cent enrollment rate.

Those who work in child care say the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the industry hard.

“As a child care provider for 31 years, I can say that COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges to our centre, such as low enrolment and staffing, which has led to significant financial hurdles,” said Amelyn Harke, executive director of the Canada Place Child Care Society.

“The safety of our children, our families and our staff is our top priority and this funding will be valuable in keeping our environments safe for our families and educators.”

The society says as more children return to the centre, the funding will be used to ensure the health and safety guidelines are implemented and followed.

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