From grocery store clerks to hospital workers, provision of free child care services will support key workers
TORONTO — The Ontario government is providing eligible health care and other frontline workers with free emergency child care for school-aged children, starting Monday, April 19, 2021. The announcement was made following the province’s decision to move elementary and secondary students across the province to remote learning following the April spring break.
During the remote learning period, emergency child care will be provided at no cost to school-aged children of eligible health care and other frontline workers. The service is intended for workers performing critical duties in the province’s continued fight against COVID-19 who cannot work remotely and who have elementary school-aged children.
“Child care is an absolutely critical part of our fight against COVID-19, and will be key to our economic recovery. I want to thank Ontario’s dedicated child care staff who have stepped up time and again to provide your children with the care they deserve,” added Minister Lecce.
The provision of safe, quality child care remains a priority for the Ontario government and the role that child care workers have played has been vital to supporting children and families and keeping child care safe throughout the pandemic. In order to protect child care workers and keep child care settings open and available for working families, child care workers, including Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs), are eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phase Two of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. This is in addition to the strong health and safety standards in place to protect workers and children across child care settings.
The move to remote learning was made in light of a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the increasing risks posed to the public by COVID-19 variants, and the concerning spike in hospital admissions. With appropriate measures in place, child care and schools have been kept safe throughout the pandemic, as confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health.
- Eligible parents and guardians with a school-aged child or children looking to access an emergency child care program should contact their local service system manager for information on availability, program locations and registration.
- In 2021, the government is investing over $2 billion to support early years and child care, including subsidies for low income families and operating costs.
- Child care settings across the province have strong health and safety standards in place to keep children, families and child care workers safe, including mandatory screening, cleaning and disinfection, use of personal protective equipment and reporting. The government is supporting this through operational guidance and shipments of free personal protective equipment.
- Currently, 91 per cent of child care centres have no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Emergency child care has been previously offered during the pandemic. At its peak earlier this year, the program served an average of 5,000 children each day across 540 locations province-wide. Today’s announcement reflects the broadest eligibility for the program to date.
- Adults aged 50 and older living in hot spot communities are also eligible for vaccinations at mass immunization clinics. Individuals aged 18 and over in designated hot spots are eligible for vaccination through mobile teams and pop-up clinics in targeted settings. Visit Ontario.ca/covidvaccineplan to determine if you live in a hot spot community and learn how to book an appointment.
- The Ontario government is also providing families with direct financial support through the new Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit. Under this new round of funding, parents will receive $400 for each child aged 0 to Grade 12 and $500 for children and youth 21 years old or younger with special needs.
- In the 2021 Budget, the Ontario government also proposed a 20 per cent enhancement to the Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit for 2021. This would increase per family support through the credit from $1,250 to $1,500, on average, providing about $75 million in additional support for the child care expenses of over 300,000 families. The CARE tax credit gives eligible families the flexibility to pick the child care option that works best for them, including child care provided in centres, homes and camps.