Alberta announces one-time $561 payment for parents, as it winds down $25/day child care
Families who earn less than $100,000 are eligible to apply
The Alberta government will offer a one-time payment of $561 for parents who used child care (including licensed or unlicensed daycares, day homes, out-of-school care or pre-school) between April and December of last year.
Families with annual household incomes of $100,000 or less will be eligible for the benefit. They can apply online between March 1 and 31.
Around 192,000 children are expected to be supported by the $108-million fund, which will be paid for out of unspent money in the Children's Services budget.
That money would have normally gone toward child-care subsidies but went unused due to lower enrolment during the pandemic. The government had been facing questions around its plans for the fund for months leading up to the budget, which will be unveiled Thursday.
One-time payment comes as $25/day program winds down
The benefit comes as the province winds down the $25-per-day child-care pilot program, which was implemented by the previous, NDP government.
Last summer, the federal government announced it would give Alberta $45 million for child care, much of which will go toward subsidizing costs for families under a new provincial program.
Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said expanding the $25-per-day pilot program would be too costly.
"To expand this program right across the province would cost more than a billion dollars. This is a difficult economic time, and the feedback from the pilot, this includes from parents and centres … felt that it was inherently unfair because it did choose winners and losers and didn't necessarily always support the parents and families that needed that support," Schulz said Wednesday.
The median cost of child care was $1,100 per month in Calgary and $975 in Edmonton in 2018, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The Opposition party criticized the announcement, saying that providing universal, accessible, affordable child care is significantly more effective than a single payment in getting parents back to work.
"Parents need affordable child care every month, not just when the UCP has a budget to sell," NDP children's services critic Rakhi Pancholi said.
"The economic imperative in this moment is to get Albertans back to work. No parent is going to be able to return to work or school based on half a month's worth of child-care fees."