Province to subsidize daycare for middle-class families

The New Brunswick government has announced millions of dollars to subsidize daycare costs for "middle income" New Brunswick families, although government figures show higher-income families may benefit too, depending on how many children they have.

3rd daycare announcement in 10 days ties plans to attendance at as-yet unestablished early learning centres

Premier Brian Gallant was in Moncton on Wednesday for the government's third daycare announcement in 10 days.

The New Brunswick government has announced millions of dollars to subsidize daycare costs for what it is calling "middle income" New Brunswick families, although government figures show in some cases that households earning more than $125,000 will be eligible for help, depending on the number of young children they have.  

"This will be a program that will help more families — families that have never actually received support in the past," Premier Brian Gallant told a Moncton news conference Wednesday — his third daycare news conference in 10 days.

Last week, Gallant announced the province would be making daycare for children under five free for parents who send them to yet-to-be established "early learning centres" and who have a household income below $37,500.   

But in many ways, the daycare assistance announced Wednesday for parents earning more than $37,500 will be a larger and, for the government, more expensive change.

For example, last week it was announced a single parent earning $29,000 with two preschoolers in daycare will see the current government subsidy of $48.50 per day increase about $17.50 to make the service free.

But according to the Wednesday announcement, a single parent earning $60,000 a year with the same two children will go from no assistance at all to $21.73 a day, a more expensive change for the province.

Help for higher-income families 

Gallant announced that it is government's plan that no family pay more than 20 per cent of its income for childcare, although that will involve subsidizing higher-income families if they have enough children under age five.

According to a "subsidy estimator" posted by the province, a family earning $125,000 per year with three preschool-age children, including one infant, will be eligible for $44 per week in government help.   

A family earning $180,000 per year could also conceivably be eligible for help if they had had four preschoolers, including two infants.

Following the announcement, the Department of Education confirmed there is no upper cutoff income level for assistance.

The province expects all of the increased benefits will require an additional $15.5 million per year on top of the $15.5 million the old assistance program cost.

The province is hoping to entice at least 300 existing daycares across the province — slightly less than half — to upgrade themselves into early learning centres by March 2019. 

It is offering grants to daycares to improve themselves but the big incentive will be tied to the generous new assistance program.   

Only parents who send their children to an early learning centre will be eligible for more assistance, which will create a strong demand for the service.

2 parents can work now

Amanda Stackhouse, who has three preschool age children she has not been able to send to daycare, said the changes will be life-changing for her family.

"One hundred per cent good  news," Stackhouse said after looking at what she and her partner will be eligible for under the new plan.

Having two incomes will make life a lot easier.- Amanda Stackhouse, mother of three

Stackhouse and her partner had a family income in the $40,000 range when both worked, which meant they had to pay most of the $100 per day cost of using daycare for their children. 

That wasn't affordable. To save money, they decided only one parent should work while the other stayed at home with the children.

Under the latest announcement, most of Stackhouse's daycare costs will be paid by government freeing both her and her partner to work.

"It will make life easier having more money at the end of every month instead of just scraping by," she said.

"Living off of one income isn't always easy. Having two incomes will make life a lot easier.

"My oldest son misses it a lot because he misses being with the friends that he made. And my second son has a severe speech delay, so it would help him because doctors wanted him to be in daycare to be around more kids. It helps a lot." 
 

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