Parents in Ontario have been told they will start receiving child care reimbursements in May, but only one municipality in the Greater Toronto Area has even started accepting applications from centers at this point and it says it could still be weeks before the money actually starts flowing.
When the Ontario government signed an agreement with the federal government to bring $10-a-day child care to the province in March, it promised fees would be reduced by 25% starting March 1. April and that parents would start receiving rebate checks as early as May. .
But months later, many municipalities responsible for distributing funds for the $13.2 billion program have yet to even begin accepting applications.
And, at least in the Greater Toronto Area, no center has been officially approved to receive funding.
This means that no parent in the GTA has yet received a discount.
“Doug Ford dithered and delayed and didn’t sign this deal with the federal government on time and then misled Ontario families by telling them he was going to send them checks in May. It’s pretty clear that parents will be lucky to see that check definitely before September,” NDP MP Marit Stiles, who served as the party’s education critic last week, told CP24.com this week. provincial parliament. “A lot of parents and families are feeling crushed, absolutely crushed by child care costs and they were hoping for some relief.”
Ontario’s agreement with the federal government is structured so that municipalities are responsible for enrolling approved centers and agencies in the new system and distributing the money, which will then be used to reduce the fees charged. parents – 25 percent by April 1 this year and 50 percent by January 1 next year.
The problem is that most municipalities have had to scramble to create an application process for the centers and to get information to the operators, likely pushing back financial aid for most parents until summer and maybe even until November.
This is because centers have until September 1 to apply, and then there is an allowance of an additional 60 days before the fees are actually reduced.
The good news is that there could be some clarity for parents, if not real financial relief.
York Region and Peel Region plan to open the apps this week, with the latter doing so after a technical briefing for operators on June 21.
The City of Toronto says it will also open applications “this month,” but has not yet announced a date. He plans to hold a town hall meeting for operators seeking information on June 22. Meanwhile, Halton Region promises to open applications “in the coming weeks,” but says they won’t be reviewed until “late summer/early fall.” .”
The only GTA municipality where daycares can currently apply is Durham Region – it opened its application portal on June 6. But officials there say approvals won’t start until July after Durham Regional Council formally approves the scheme and money will be released “after approvals are completed and contracts ( service) are signed”.
What each GTA region said about when centers could be approved and rebates could be issued
“I think the parents had quite an expectation that they would see their fees come down quickly and that expectation was actually set by Premier Ford because when he signed the agreement he said people would actually start getting discounts in May and that didn’t happen,” Carolyn Ferns, public policy and government relations coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, told CP24.com this week. “It’s not that municipalities are particularly slow or that child care providers are particularly slow, we know that in other provinces it took many months to get started and the same thing is going to happen in Ontario. Municipalities have to change a lot the way they manage child care, how it’s funded and how it works, put in place this opt-in system and of course it’s a requirement for them to pass everything this by their local council.
Ontario was the latest province to sign on to the federal plan to reduce child care costs for children aged five and under, more than eight months after the first agreement was reached with British Columbia.
Shortly after the bilateral agreement was signed, the province released a detailed document with guidelines for how the program would operate, but Ferns said it was “written more for municipalities to interpret” and then used. to “establish the rules for the centers”.
This, in turn, has created a sort of information vacuum as centers wait for more information before deciding whether or not to apply.
“I think most centers will go for that,” Ferns said. “But it’s also a very big change, so it’s completely understandable that they want to know exactly what this means for them and there are things in the funding guidelines that are open to interpretation. Something like a municipality being able to determine reasonable costs, that’s a good thing, but you know when you see that, you know, people want to know more.
11 municipal service system managers have opened applications
Department of Education officials, speaking on the merits, said money to reduce fees had already been distributed and details of the program “have been communicated to municipalities and operators for many weeks” .
They say they have “strongly encouraged” city partners to “work as quickly as possible with child care operators” to get that money “into parents’ pockets.”
So far, 11 Consolidated Municipal Service System Managers in Ontario have opened the registration process for approved centers, according to the ministry.
The list includes Simcoe County, Gray County, Bruce County, Renfrew County, Lambton County, City of Greater Sudbury, District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board, Timiskaming District Social Services Administration Board, Kenora District Services Board, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board and Durham Region.
The ministry also said 13 other service system managers plan to open applications by the end of this month.
As an example of progress, officials say applications are now being processed by “all child care licensees” in the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Commission territory.
“For many months, our government has remained focused on finding the best deal for Ontario families. We have reached a deal that lowers costs for families with billions of dollars in additional funding, more child care spaces and a longer deal that protects parental choice,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Education said. Education Stephen Lecce in a statement provided to CP24.com. “Overall, parents in Ontario will pay less for child care under our government with more early years and child care options, benefits and supports than everywhere else in the country. We will continue to do what it takes to help make life more affordable for working parents.
Department of Education officials said parents eligible for a refund will receive it directly from their licensed childcare providers and do not need to apply.
But they warn it is ‘now up to the centres’ to register
Speaking to CP24.com, Ferns said most eventually will.
However, she said she had some concerns about the looming September 1 deadline, which will leave most centers with just two months to apply.
“These months are the summer months and it may seem like a minor point, but for a non-profit child care centre, whose board is made up of volunteer parents, they have to hold board meetings to make those decisions and they don’t ‘actually, I don’t usually get together during the summer,’ she said. “I think a lot depends on child care operators right now, especially on these smaller nonprofit boards. But they’re all really committed to getting this done and hopefully we’ll see some flexibility to try to make this work.