Funding for N.S. child-care centres has started flowing but operators say it's not enough

·3 min read
Children are pictured with their daycare workers at Bee Haven Childcare Centre in North Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2020. The Nova Scotia government says there are 334 licensed child-care centres and 14 licensed family home child-care agencies in the province. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Children are pictured with their daycare workers at Bee Haven Childcare Centre in North Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2020. The Nova Scotia government says there are 334 licensed child-care centres and 14 licensed family home child-care agencies in the province. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government started distributing emergency funding for child-care centres Friday, but some operators say it falls short of covering the financial losses they've incurred during the third wave of COVID-19.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development announced $1.75 million Thursday to help centres cover staffing and operational costs, and promised more money is coming.

"The announcement makes it sound like it's a large amount, and believe me we're appreciative of all the funding that will come and the fact that they're trying to keep centres viable, but the amount of funding that's been announced, it's certainly not enough," said Bobbi Keating, executive director of Peter Green Hall Children's Centre in Halifax.

Unlike during earlier COVID-19 shutdowns, the provincial government asked child-care centres to stay open during the third wave so essential workers would have somewhere to take their children.

For families who could keep their children at home, the government promised their spaces would be held at child-care centres but they would not have to pay.

Child-care centres in Nova Scotia have been ordered to cap their operations at 60 their typical capacity during the third wave of COVID-19.
Child-care centres in Nova Scotia have been ordered to cap their operations at 60 their typical capacity during the third wave of COVID-19.(CBC)

Keating said that means her centre lost $33,000 in parent fees for May, but the deposit received from the province Friday was only $17,000.

She said she's already reached out to the department to ask about the shortfall and is hoping to get more money next week, although that may be too late to make payday for her workers.

"We're in a place where we can't make our next payroll with that $17,000 today, and that's very disturbing for our families, for our staff, for the sector," she said.

Derek Mombourquette, the minister for education and early childhood development, said in a news release the government is committed to keeping centres open during the lockdown.

"We have moved quickly to get money we committed to delivering out the door, and to ensure child-care centres and spaces will be there for families when the restrictions are lifted," he said.

Besides the emergency funding, the release said the province has provided centres with personal protective equipment equipment at no cost.

Michelle Cleary, the owner and director of Maple Tree Montessori, said the equipment provided doesn't cover all her centre's needs, which means her operating costs are up, in addition to revenues being down.

The provincial government promised emergency funding for child-care centres in April.
The provincial government promised emergency funding for child-care centres in April.(CBC)

"I'm stressed about it, for sure," said Cleary, whose daycare has two campuses in Halifax.

Premier Iain Rankin said at a COVID-19 briefing earlier this week the emergency funding would cover costs, but not profit.

"I'm not sure how the calculation was done, that really hasn't been shared with us," Cleary said.

Cleary said profit margins are generally narrow in the child-care sector, but vary between different operations.

"It's upwards of $50,000 a month to run my operation with salaries, rent, the increased cost of groceries and PPE [personal protective equipment]," she said. "This last year the cost of everything has gone up tremendously."

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