SAINT JOHN (GNB) – The provincial government has announced that families with an annual gross income under $37,500 will have access to free child care.
“Ensuring that all New Brunswick families are moving forward together is a priority for your government,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “Access to free child care for lower-income families will ensure parents are given every opportunity to enter the workforce or pursue their studies, while having the peace of mind that their children are being cared for in high-quality Early Learning Centres across the province.”
The free daycare program is for parents who are either working or attending school, with children aged five and under attending a designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centre.
“Investing in early childhood education is a key component of your government’s multi-year economic growth plan,” said Gallant. “Free child care for families that need the most support will help these families with the cost of child care, will help the children with their education, and will provide a boost to New Brunswick’s workforce so our economy can continue to grow.”
The program is available to eligible families regardless of the centre’s location or the fee charged by its operator. The first designated anglophone and francophone centres will be located in Saint John and the Greater Edmundston area beginning in March. They will be implemented provincewide by March 1, 2019.
“Your government is focused on a holistic approach to supporting New Brunswick families,” said Gallant. “Before this investment, if a single mother of a young child wished to further her studies at university, she would just not be able to afford both tuition and child care. Now, your government has offered her the opportunity to access both free tuition and free child care while she studies. Cases like these will result in healthier families and a stronger workforce here in New Brunswick.”
Parents will be notified by their daycares once they are designated and can begin the process.
“This announcement has the ability to dramatically reduce generational poverty in New Brunswick,” said Donna Gates, executive director of Living SJ. “Giving parents options to help break the cycle of poverty is key, and the opportunity to access free child care will make a big difference to many families.”
“Today’s announcement will not only change the lives of many New Brunswick families, but will also support economic growth in our province by allowing parents to return to the workforce or enroll in post-secondary education to increase their employment potential,” said Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce chair Claire Ryan. “Having more people working, and strengthening the workforce will help our province reach its economic potential.”
This daycare program is another way the government is helping working parents and parents attending university or college with child care costs.
Existing programs to help students continue their education include the Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class. These offer non-repayable provincial bursaries to make post-secondary education more accessible.
“It is encouraging that increasing access to post-secondary education is a key concern for the provincial government,” said University of New Brunswick president Eddy Campbell. “Any program that will help remove barriers to education and help families is crucial. We know that a well-educated population is the best way to set up our province and our students for economic success.”
Today’s announcement is part of a larger framework of child care investments and early learning initiatives related to:
- Daycares in New Brunswick will be able to apply for a One-Time Quality Improvement Grant to increase the quality of both indoor and outdoor learning environments, including equipment and materials, for children aged five and under. The one-time grants will total $4.7 million over the next two years.
- $7.5 million in annual Quality Grants will be provided to help the facilities deliver high-quality child care services and meet the criteria of becoming a designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centre. The funding equates to a daily funding enhancement of $2.50 per space per day for children aged two to five years old. All early learning centre operators will be required to develop a plan for continuous quality improvement.
- New Brunswick Early Learning Centres will offer services to preschool children aged five and under through a voluntary application process. Daycares are not required to be part of this program. Those that choose to do so will work in collaboration with the government with the aim of offering equitable and affordable access to high-quality early learning and child care services by removing barriers linked to family income, children’s abilities and needs, language and minority settings.
- The government is investing $28 million, in addition to the multi-year bilateral funding, to support wage increases for early childhood educators. The funding will be rolled out over four years beginning in 2019-20 and raise wages from $16 an hour to $19 an hour for trained early childhood educators by 2022-23.
- A new child care registry will serve as a one-stop shop for families to register their children for available child care spaces and have access to apply for subsidies online. Families will also be able to determine immediately whether spaces are available in a facility or if there is a wait list.
- An Infant Operator Grant will be available to offset operational costs of infant care. It will provide $10 per occupied infant space per day.
- Transforming as many child care facilities as possible, with an aim of designating more than 300 as New Brunswick Early Learning Centres by 2020 to offer more affordable, accessible, inclusive and high-quality early learning and child care services.
- Early Learning Centres will also receive support to help increase the number of infant spaces across the province by 200 by the year 2020.
- Since October 2014 the provincial government has created nearly 3,000 new spaces and plans to expand the total number of spaces in New Brunswick to 30,000 by 2020.
- In addition to today’s announcement, the government is committed to investing in access to affordability for even more New Brunswickers.
- Additional financial support measures for preschool-aged children five and under will be unveiled in the near future.
Today’s announcement is part of a federal-provincial, three-year early learning and child care agreement that commits $71 million in investments to improve early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the province. More details on the government’s plan to invest and transform the child care and early learning system are available in its Early Learning and Child Care Action Plan, Everyone at their best… from the start: Early Learning and Child Care Action Plan.