Ontario's child-care centres will be receiving about three per cent of a major influx of cash from the federal government meant to help cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the province's premier said Friday.
Doug Ford said $234.6 million would start flowing to licensed daycare providers, First Nations Child and Family Programs and other child-care operators in the coming weeks. The money comes as part of the Safe Restart Agreement, a $19-billion deal between Ottawa and the provinces and territories, of which Ontario will receive $7-billion.
"This is about giving parents certainty," Ford said at a Friday morning news conference. "This is about giving their employers certainty. And above all it's about protecting our kids and the staff who care for them."
Ford said the money will be used to allow the province to provide face coverings for staff in child-care settings, hire new employees if needed and otherwise bolster cleaning and public health protocols.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who oversees the province's child-care portfolio, said the money could also be used to retrofit school-based daycare locations to make them safer, as well as offset revenue losses from the months when child-care centres were closed or operating at a limited capacity.
"It can be used ... to make up those dollars, to really help those operators get through the worst of it," Lecce said.
He said the money would flow in "short order," but did not provide a specific date.
Ontario's child-care centres, shuttered during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, have been gradually ramping up operations since June, when the province began moving regions into Stage 2 of its pandemic recovery plan.
Child-care providers have previously said they were not receiving promised funding on time, leaving staff either unable to open their facilities or to safely care for as many children as they wished.
The government has said that daycares have the green light to operate at 100 per cent capacity once again as of Sept. 1.
Story by Michelle McQuigge - The Canadian Press