The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is providing additional child care support for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It announced $5.1 million on Friday, to create four temporary child care initiatives to help support parents providing essential services in the NWT.
In a news release, the GNWT says the funding is to “lessen the financial impacts on licensed family day homes and centre-based child care programs.”
The initiatives include:
- $1.9 million subsidy to lower the cost of child care by 33 per cent for parents who are physically attending work and need childcare. (Provided to the childcare provider, not the parents.)
- $1,000 per month wage top-up for childcare staff with a total value of $1.3 million.
- $665, 000 to provide supplies and labour required for enhanced cleaning of childcare centres.
- $1.24 million subsidy to help cover the fixed costs, such as rent and utilities for licensed early learning and childcare programs.
According to the government, “These initiatives will prioritize direct health and allied healthcare workers, as well as any parents required to physically attend a worksite during the pandemic.”
“A 33 per cent increase for child care providers, who’s to say if that even gets to essential workers who are paying for childcare,” March said.
March told CKLB Radio that she worries that “those childcare providers will still continue to charge regular rates,” and not provide a reduction in fees for essential workers.
“I only had to pay $500 a month prior to the pandemic for childcare, now I am paying $2,000 a month where my children are not in school,” March said. “The 33 per cent decrease is a joke. After speaking with my many co-workers our opinion is that this announcement still doesn’t help.”
CKLB Radio asked Minister Simpson how the GNWT will ensure that the savings trickle down to the workers who qualify.
“When it comes to childcare spaces, it will be up to the childcare provider to determine if the parents are an essential employee or not,” Simpson said.
Simpson added that childcare providers have a relationship with parents and they “know what they do for a living.”
March fears that childcare providers will not offer the full 33 per cent discount.
“I fear childcare providers can say no to essential workers and not give the full discount provided by the government,” March said. “And if they can open a daycare, why can’t they open the elementary schools? Children will not be socially distanced while in daycare.”
March says she has been paying increased childcare costs since April because of the pandemic and wonders if the GNWT will offer essential workers retroactive pay for money already spent on childcare.
CKLB has asked the GNWT how it will address this issue. We are waiting to hear back with a response.