Child care subsidies don’t help middle income families

NDP Education Critic Lorraine Michael

When the Minister of Education announced increases to the child care subsidy last week, says NDP Education and Early Childhood Development Critic Lorraine Michael, he neglected to mention that the increase, the first in a decade, does nothing to help most working families in the province.

“The income threshold for the maximum subsidy is now $32,000, which the news release describes as ‘families with low to middle incomes,’” Michael said. “In fact, this new threshold just barely reaches low-income levels. There’s nothing here for middle-income families.” The most recent (2014) Low-Income Cut-Off for a couple with two children in St. John’s is $32,236.

“And with government’s graduated scale, low-income families with incomes only slightly above the $32,000 threshold will have even less of their fees paid under the subsidy program,” she said.

In addition, a family using a centre that charges more than the government’s fee scale pays even more. Government pays $600 to $660 monthly for children aged 2 to 4, but centre-based care costs on average $800 per month in St. John’s.

Michael says the increase is long-overdue but, typically, government has taken an ineffectual and inadequate step to address a major concern of families – and a roadblock that keeps many people, mostly women, out of the workforces.

“We need universal, affordable child care. It would boost the economy, increase tax revenue, help families with the rising cost of daycare, raise program quality, and improve early childhood educators’ working conditions,” Michael said.

“It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but we have to put a solid workable plan in place to start the process now. This announcement is almost meaningless to the thousands of working families struggling to find affordable child care.”

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