Parents in New Brunswick are ready to save a lot of money starting now.
Licensed daycare centers in the county have reduced their fees by 50 percent effective Wednesday.
The fee reduction plan, which is part of a partnership agreement between the territorial government and the union government, was announced last December.
The program will cost $544 million over five years, with the bulk of the money coming from Ottawa and the county at $53 million.
The goal is to eventually bring childcare costs down to $10 a day.
While childcare costs vary by region and the age of the children, Heather Hamilton, who runs two daycares in the St. John’s area, said her clients will pay $21 per child instead of the average $42.
“They are happy,” said Hamilton.
“Once they realized everything was pretty simplified, it was fine.”
Parents say it’s a long time coming
It may be an understatement to say that parents are happy.
Angela Bennett and her partner have three children and work full time.
They are not from New Brunswick and do not have a family to depend on, so cheaper daycare will be a huge advantage when Bennett returns to work from maternity leave.
“Having three kids in foster care is very expensive,” Bennett said.
“I feel like this is definitely a long time coming for New Brunswick to be able to have a program like this to help.”
Amy Girouard’s little boy isn’t in foster care yet, but she hopes the cost-cutting will help parents struggling with rising inflation.
“Inflation is huge right now,” Giroire said.
“The cost of living is going up. Any savings that can be returned to these families with young children would be a huge help.”
While the discount will undoubtedly be appreciated by parents, the move has left some daycare operators scrambling.
The county announced the date of the discount on June 1 in late April. It wasn’t that long, said operators like Cheryl Lewis, who operates three day centers in St. John.
“This means a lot of extra work for staff to make sure parents are integrated into the new system,” she said. “It was a nightmare.”
“We only got things done a few weeks ago. We have no deadline, no contact.”
Lewis said she wishes the boycott had given the industry more time to prepare.
“When the news comes out, and you’re reporting it, that’s when we hear it,” Lewis said.
“It’s very frustrating as an owner.”
The transition to the new fee structure went more smoothly for Hamilton, but she said there was some confusion, and staff had to do some extra work to make sure everything was okay.
But she realizes that the switch will always have some hiccups.
“You need a little patience,” said Hamilton.
“This is our first kick in the box. We’re going to have some mistakes.”
Supply and demand
Cheaper nurseries also increase the potential for increased demand for the system.
Hamilton said that when the announcement was first announced, her phone rang constantly from parents looking for childcare places.
Months later, she still gets multiple calls per day from people looking for spaces for their kids, even though she already has a huge waiting list.
“We have some who don’t really realize how the inner business works,” Hamilton said.
“They say, ‘We need space for tomorrow.’ Well, that certainly won’t happen.”
Hamilton said she believes demand could be exacerbated by the number of unlicensed nurseries that may be unable to compete with partially funded licensed centers.
“They can’t compete with their prices being cut in half,” said Hamilton.
“Unfortunately, some of these people are going to close…but the problem now is that we don’t have enough space anywhere in the county.”