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Reduced daycare fees: The benefits and challenges of the program

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Relief. This is a word that can summarize what millions of Canadian parents of young children felt when the Ontario government finally reached a deal with the Federal counterpart and announced they we’re going to participate of the program that reduce fees in licensed child-care facilities, proposed by the Liberals. The deal was signed last year; and as was promised, prices for daycares are already half of what they used to be in Ontario. The long-term target is to reduce the cost of child-care to $10 dollars per day by September 2025, to ensure affordability for families at all income-levels.

The program financially benefits millions of families, especially in this time of higher cost-of-living. It particularly benefits mothers, many of whom can now consider going back to the workforce before their children reach school age. This is great news, as if families can afford to put their kids in childcare facilities during the workdays, it frees up an additional parent to have a fulltime job and generate a second income for their household.

In Ontario, 92% of licensed child-care operators have signed on to the national $10-a-day child-care program. One of these facilities is Air-O-Down Child Care Centre, which has been operating for 35 years and is located in Downsview Secondary School, in North York.

To get to know more about this topic, in this week’s edition of Milénio Stadium we interviewed Toni Tolomeo-Locantore, who for 30 years has been the director of Air-O-Down Child Care Centre. Toni pointed out why nearly all qualifying childcare facilities have opted into the program, and what concerns are related to its implementation. We asked Toni if she thinks daycares are going to have enough space for a higher demand, and about the difficulties of attracting more staff to the field of childcare. Lastly Toni tells us about how she oversees the challenges and benefits of these initiative, that is going to change the early learning system in Canada.

Toni Tolomeo-Locantore. Photo: DR.
Toni Tolomeo-Locantore. Photo: DR.

Milénio Stadium: How is your daycare implementing the new federal/provincial program that reduces fees for parents? Why did you choose to participate?
Toni Tolomeo-Locantore: The Centre applied to enroll in the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care know as (CWELCC) with our local service system manager who is the City of Toronto. Within 14 days we notified families verbally that we opted in to the CWELCC. By September 1,2002 we updated the parent handbook notifying families of the application. Within 31 days of CWELCC enrolment date- we reduced base fees for applicable families. Within 60 days of CWELCC enrolment rebates went out to all applicable families retroactive to April1, 2022. All operators would need to be in accordance with CCEYA/CWELCC agreement.
We chose to participate because we believe this will provide financial relief for families through lower licenced childcare fees to 10 dollars per day in 2025, also enable space creation so more families can access licenced Child Care to support their children and participate in the workforce and enhance quality through stronger qualified workforce, more recognition to the field.

MS: In order to comply with this program, did your daycare have to make any changes?
T.L: The main changes were to administration of the program and the fees had to be frozen from March 2022 and then rebates of fees had to be calculated as indicated in the guidelines. This Centre already provides the RECE’s (registered early childhood educator) staff with a wages floor above the wages proposed in the work force plan. It also has 2 or 3 RECE already in our programs.

MS: Do you think the quality of service will be affected?
T.L: Yes and no, depending how each licensed childcare centre is operating. For centre’s that have the required minimum of a RECE under the CCEYA (Child Care and Early Years Act)- to these centre’s quality of RECE will have a big impact on quality. The Ford government is not doing enough to support the workforce in child care. The wage floors of $18 dollars will not attract high quality RECE’s.

MS: Regarding parents, how has their feedback been? Have you noticed an increase in demand for vacancies?
T.L: Parents are very grateful in the reduced fees as other expenses are rising. Women wanting to go back into the workforce makes it less stressful and more affordable for them. The demands seem to be the same, but it’s too early in the program to have an impact. Over the years we always see a greater demand for infants spaces, as these spaces a very costly due to the child and adult ratios having to be covered all day to meet licensing requirements. As the system is more stable and fees are reduced we will see a crises if spaces are not increased and the workforce issues are not addressed.

MS: Do you think that such a considerable reduction in values will have an impact on the future of day care centers as a business?
T.L: If the centre is a profit centre then the bottom line of what the owner makes will have an impact, because there will be guidelines, and everything will need to be transparent. Also, for non or profit centers the impact will happen if the government doesn’t provide a plan for covering other costs of operating a business example, rent taxes, bills, insurance, wages/benefits. If the government doesn’t cover our daily costs by keeping fees reduced at a reduced cost, how can we continue to offer quality in programs?

Lizandra Ongaratto/MS

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