A Kelowna childcare centre owner is growing increasingly frustrated with the provincial government after it failed to provide her with on-time subsidy payments for the last two months.
Amanda Worms, owner of two Little Owl Academy daycare services in the Central Okanagan, said she had to reach into her line of credit to pay her staff because the province has not provided her with the payments as part of a new childcare fee reduction initiative.
The program was implemented last April.
“We had to opt in to order to give our parents a fee reduction of $350 for an infant toddler spot and $150 for a child from three to Kindergarten,” she said.
“It reduced revenues for facilities that they expected to have for the first of the month, so the commitment from the government is that it is always going to be paid before the first of the month. The issue with it is for a facility of my size, that’s over $20,000.
“Now this is the second month in a row that I haven’t been paid by the first and I’m still trying to come back from last month’s issue.”
She also recently found out that families had been deleted from her filing system, which she was told was because of an administrative glitch.
The families now have to opt into the program again, she said, and no one would have known had she not noticed the issue.
“Now you’re facing even more fees that you’re expecting to come in (that) aren’t coming,” she said. “It’s become a really big problem.”
Worms was told payments were delayed because of statutory holidays, but that doesn’t keep her from having to pay her own bills, she said.
Worms said she sent an email to the province, but has yet to receive a response from the ministry or minister responsible.
“I had to personally fund my payroll yesterday and I’m lucky that I’m a person who doesn’t have a maxed (out) line of credit, so I’m honestly hoping people understand this is a serious problem.”
She is also skeptical of the new wage enhancement program because of the way the B.C. government has handled this program.
Starting this month, the government is providing a $1 per hour wage enhancement for front-line early childhood educators working in eligible licensed child care facilities. Another $1 per hour wage enhancement is scheduled for April 1, 2020, according to the government’s website.
“There’s just been a whole bunch of really weird anomalies,” said Worms. “As a business owner, that can’t happen… we have over 250 families that we serve.”
The province responded with an emailed statement.
“The Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative has been in operation since last April. We know that providers rely on timely payments for their operations. Our payment system requests that providers submit their monthly reports by the 20th of each month and unless further information is required, payments are received by the first of the month.
“In December, we processed around 2,200 payments by Dec. 24 and the majority of these providers should have received payment by Jan. 1. The number of statutory holidays in December resulted in a short delay for some providers. All providers who submitted their reports on or before Dec. 20 should receive payment by Jan. 3.
“We understand the impact this has on child care providers, and will be looking at how we can improve the payment system to ensure that in circumstances such as this, funds are available at the start of the month to allow them to pay their staff or other related costs,” according to a ministry spokesperson.
Worms is also in the middle of opening a new facility in Lake Country.
“It’s frustrating. I’ve spent my entire Christmas break (asking if her payments can be held),” she said.
As of Jan. 3, she still hadn’t received a payment.
“When you’re dealing with big leasing companies, they don’t really give a crap if you’re not getting your payment,” she said.