North Shore daycares face funding crunch during COVID-19 crisis

Operators uncertain as they provide essential service

This story has been updated since first posting to include a statement from the province.

Some daycare operators on the North Shore that are remaining open to provide essential service say they don’t know how they’re going to pay rent and salaries to childcare workers because funding promised by the province has yet to come through.

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“They’re telling people that the funding’s there, but it’s not,” said Louise Warner of Bee Haven Childcare, which operates seven childcare centres throughout North Vancouver.

Even when the money does come through, Warner said not all of the current subsidies will be covered, which she calculates will bring the childcare’s income down to about 60 per cent of what it was previously.

“It’s a lot less basically,” she said. “I still have staff to pay. I still have my centres open.”

Parents who can are being encouraged by the province to keep their children at home to help with the goal of social distancing.

While children usually only have very mild symptoms of the coronavirus, it is possible for them to spread it to others who may develop a more serious illness.

Warner said she’s kept her daycares open to provide care for a small number of front-line workers, including first responders, medical workers and store clerks who have to go to work.

For some parents whose children have special needs and need extra support, it’s also very difficult for them to remain at home, she added.

Recently, the government announced it would pay compensation to childcare operators to allow them to continue with reduced enrolment, expected to provide about 75 per cent of normal revenue.

Centres that close temporarily are also eligible for funding to cover fixed costs like rent. That amount is expected to amount to about 20 per cent of normal revenue.

But Warner said with the end of the month quickly approaching, those announcements don’t match her reality. She added she’s had no communication from government to say when the money will be coming.

“I’m not getting a break on any of my rent. I’m not getting a break on my staffing costs,” she said. “What are we supposed to do?”

Jane Thornthwaite, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, said the problem is not confined to North Vancouver. Many childcare operators are facing similar stresses, she said.

So far, “none of them have actually got any money,” she said.

That’s led to instances of confrontation between operators and parents – who’ve been told they don’t have to pay fees because the province has it covered. “That’s not good for anyone,” she said.

Aside from stepped up cleaning and hand washing routines, daycare operators have also been given very limited information from health officials about how they’re supposed to deal with social distancing while caring for young children, she said.

Thornthwaite said she worries that when the COVID-19 crisis is over there will be fewer daycares left running.

Warner echoes that, saying she knows of two North Vancouver daycare operators who have been forced to close their doors. “The rest of us are sort of hanging on for dear life,” she said.

In an emailed statement, the provincial Ministry of Children and Families stated emergency funding for childcare providers will come into effect April 1.

"Setting up a new funding program takes time, but we are working as quickly as possible to support providers. We expect to launch the application form and guidelines this week so providers can start applying for the funding. Until then, providers will continue to receive their existing funding from the government," according to the statement.

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