The federal government will invest another $9.7 million in early learning and child care in New Brunswick.
The money is designed to create and support more high-quality, affordable child care in New Brunswick, said Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development.
"Now, more than ever before, families need access to safe, quality, affordable and accessible child care as we slowly and safely reopen our economy," said Hussen.
In making the announcement via a Zoom news conference Wednesday, Hussen said child care is "not a convenience, it is a necessity."
"High-quality, early learning experiences are essential to the intellectual, emotional and physical development of our children," he said.
The money is an extension of a three-year, $1.2 billion agreement the federal government signed with all provinces and territories in 2017. According to a news release from the federal government, the original deal helped create "close to 40,000 more affordable child care spaces nationally prior to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Of that $1.2 billion, New Brunswick received almost $30 million.
Wednesday's announcement means an additional $400 million for 2020-21 — $9.7 million of it destined for New Brunswick for early learning and child care.
New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the new money will help compensate child-care facilities for losses incurred by the shut down in mid-March and the added costs of operating in a pandemic.
"The COVID-19 pandemic made clear something many of us have known for a long time: access to child care is not a luxury, it is an essential service," said Cardy on Wednesday.
"Ensuring access to affordable, high-quality early learning and child-care services will play an important role as New Brunswick recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting parents in their return to work."
Cardy said the money will help ensure that all families have access to high-quality, affordable child care in the official language of their choice by 2030.
Cardy said the importance of early childhood educators became very clear in the early days of the pandemic.
"At a point when the rest of the province, the rest of the country, the rest of the world was locking down — when people were going home, early childhood educators stepped up, went out and served their communities, served the families who entrusted their children with their care, and helped us to keep our economy alive."
He said daycare operators "gave a lot and risked a lot."
In addition to grants that will be paid directly to childcare facilities for specific programs, Cardy said some of the money will be spent on subsidies for parents.
"So I want to encourage parents to register for the early childhood services portal where they can access the subsidy calculator and other relevant information on early learning services and programs, so they can figure out how they can take part in this program."