SUNDRE — The new child-care funding program recently announced by the provincial and federal governments will benefit families, says a local operator of a childcare centre.
Korie Graham, owner of Mount Imagination Childcare Centre — a privately-run, for-profit, fully licensed daycare with four certified front-line staff — said the program remains in the early stages.
But based on the information that the provincial government has already announced to date, Graham said the program will be “a great thing for families. Price-wise, it’s going to be very advantageous for parents.”
Mount Imagination currently charges $8 per hour, which depending on how much time a child stays at the centre, can range anywhere between $100 to $800 a month. Under the new program, she added some parents are poised to pay much less.
“Right now, our fees are so low that some parents could pay as little as $24 a month. It’s just what (the provincial government’s) proposed for numbers, and what our fees are,” she said, adding there will be a far greater understanding of how it all will work come the new year.
“It’s figuring out how to rebalance that.”
According to a provincial government press release, parents will be able to apply for the new subsidies starting in January. The rates are determined by a family’s total income, the child’s age, the child care program as well as the number of hours the child attends monthly.
A family generating annual revenue up to $119,999 will be eligible to receive 100 per cent of the subsidy for licensed, facility-based centres and licensed family day home agencies. On the higher end of the income spectrum, a family earning between $175,000 to $179,999 will be eligible to receive 40 per cent of the subsidy.
“For example, a family earning $75,000 per year with one toddler attending a daycare program would be eligible for full subsidy. If the current fees are $1,000 per month, the daycare program will receive $510 per month in an operating grant and the family would be eligible for $266 per month. The remaining parent portion will be $224 per month or approximately $10 per day,” reads a portion of the statement.
“A family earning $130,000 per year with an infant attending a daycare program would be eligible for partial subsidy. If the current fees are $1,200 per month, the program will receive $635 per month in an operating grant and the family would be eligible for $226 per month in subsidy. The remaining parent portion is $339 per month or $15.60 per day.”
Graham also praised the efforts of Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s minister of Children’s Services, in keeping the sector up to speed through regular town hall phone conferences.
“She has been amazing throughout the whole process and keeping us informed,” Graham told The Albertan during a phone interview, with the sound of children gleefully playing in the background.
“We got the numbers sent to us of what they’re going to be giving for parents,” she said, adding that while the program presents a positive move forward, it nevertheless also leaves plenty of room for improvement.
“Unfortunately, from my perspective, they didn’t include the school-age children. So, that makes it a little tougher on those parents since their kids will be here less than daycare kids, but will end up paying more,” she said.
“As soon as they’re enrolled in kindergarten, they age out,” she said, adding parents in that situation will simply remain on existing subsidies.
“They’re hoping to fix that. (Schulz) says it’s a step in the right direction, but not fully what everyone wants,” she said.
“The consensus of a lot of the directors and operators was we were hoping to see more for our staff” in terms of raises and top-ups, she added.
“As good as it is for the families, it’s kind of scary too to think that we might not be able to get the best staff sometimes, because the pay isn’t the greatest.”
But Graham recognized and seemed grateful for the funding that will be allocated to help operators with wage top-ups and professional development.
“They actually just put out funding that goes specifically to acquire qualified staff, or supporting our staff through the COVID times,” she said. “That was a pretty significant amount of money that can be used for a number of things like bonuses for the staff, or to get more qualified staff to come in.”
That is funding she plans to pay forward to her employees.
“Fortunately for myself, I have a great staff. So, most of that money will go to bonuses for them,” she said, adding one of her staff has worked at the daycare since the centre opened nearly 13 years ago.
“So, I’m pretty sure she deserves a good bonus!”
Mount Imagination has a capacity of 35 children, but does not reach that limit these days, especially since any cold-like symptoms requires a child to stay at home.
“Depending on if everybody is healthy, right now we’re averaging between 25 and 30 kids a day,” she said.