More than 1,100 New Brunswick families are looking for childcare spaces during the provincial state of emergency, officials say.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development says there are 2,755 emergency childcare spaces in 67 facilities across the province, and as of Thursday there were 1,774 children in need of a space.
So far 521 of those children have been assigned to a space, deputy minister George Daley said in a teleconference with reporters Friday.
“So we still have a significant amount of work to do,” Daley said.
The province is ensuring that anyone who is an essential services worker can send their child to daycare at this time, and that they are not paying twice.
In a memo to parents, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy said the government will cover the cost of childcare for essential services workers who are also paying to reserve their usual space.
It’s also going to pay for anyone who has lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have told centres who have laid-off their employees to not charge parents. If your centre has laid-off their employees and does try to charge you, please contact the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development,” Cardy said in the memo.
Reporters were told this is because some centres are continuing to charge parents so they can continue paying their staff. Others have chosen to lay off staff to cut costs during this time.
Essential services workers defined
Cardy says the decision to close early learning and childcare centres was among the most difficult that government has made.
During the state of emergency, childcare centres cannot open except for those serving essential services workers. Emergency centres can only have a maximum of 50 children.
Announcing the state of emergency Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs said retail stores must close except for grocery stores, pharmacies, NB Liquor and Cannabis NB, hardware stores, automotive repair shops, post offices, gas stations, and banks. Restaurants are allowed to be open for take-out only.
The department didn’t provide a full list of what it considers emergency services in this case, but said parents who believe they need to go to work can call the government and make their case for inclusion.
“We have this list and (if) we have someone else who makes a very good case that they are required to go to work as an essential worker, that right now as long as we’ve got space, we are putting people on that list to make sure that those folks get to work,” Daley said.
Asked if essential workers include people who work at grocery stores, Daley said they “could make a pretty good argument that they’re essential to our society and our structure right now.”
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