An $11.5-million trust fund that the province promised would help child-care centres improve accessibility and upgrade facilities has left many "frustrated and discouraged" after 500 applied for funding and only $100,000 was available.
On March 2, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced the $11.5-million child-care trust to "support child-care centres as an endowment fund to help them in acquiring resources and upgrading facilities."
Licensed child-care centres were told they’d be eligible for up to $25,000 and child-care homes could apply for as much as $10,000 through the trust. The deadline for applications was March 30.
What the province didn’t make clear was that the trust fund, managed by the Winnipeg Foundation, hadn’t had enough time to accrue much interest on the $11.5-million endowment, said Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association.
"Due to the lack of details or transparency, that left a lot of facilities feeling frustrated and discouraged," Kehl said Friday.
At the start of the third wave of the pandemic, child care providers scrambled to get quotes from contractors and apply for funding from the trust. "It is an arduous process," she said.
"The facilities that applied for it need the money now — not 12 months from now," said Kehl. "If they’d said ‘this is the amount of money that’s available’ (child-care centres) might have said ‘don’t bother.’"
The Progressive Conservative government’s trust fund announcement created "a sense that they were making more generous investments than they actually were," said NDP MLA Adrien Sala. Provincial operating grants to child-care centres have been frozen for the last five years, he said Friday.
"They’re cash-starved and they’re struggling right now," he said Friday.
He accused the government of "intentionally misleading" the child-care sector by avoiding any talk of how much of the endowment fund would be released this year.
Eight grants were allocated and additional grants will be approved when more interest is accrued, a provincial spokesman said.
"There was an overwhelming response and limited funds based on the investment in the trust in its first year," a spokesman said.
"At the end of the current 2021-22 fiscal year, the amount of accrued interest will be greater and allow for more grants and more applicants receiving funds for their projects."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.