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York Region parent questions daycare subsidy drive

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Mother told she was being put on a long-term waitlist at a time municipality was putting out a call for families to apply. Region says parent was sent an outdated letter, but situation being rectified
Javed, Noor
Publication Date: 
27 Sep 2017


A York Region parent is questioning why the municipality is putting a call out for families to apply for a child-care subsidy after she was placed on a long-term waitlist due to “limited funding.”

Jenine Liscio said she applied for a subsidy earlier this month and received an email from the region two weeks ago telling her she would be put on a long-term wait list as they “were only contacting families with an income of $36,000 or less” due to “limited funding and waitlist priorities as approved by regional council.”

“I figured there were people who probably needed it more than me,” said Liscio, an Aurora bookkeeper, who says that both she and her spouse work, but the loss of a family business and house fire “nearly took everything we had.”

But then, Liscio says she was stunned to see the Star story last week, in which both York and Peel regions said a recent influx of funds from the province, coupled with no or low waitlists, had them launching a campaign to find families in need of daycare cash.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Liscio. “They are either lying to you or my family.”

Liscio says her family makes a little over $36,000 a year, so an accountant suggested she apply for a regional subsidy to help with before- and after-care daycare costs for her two school-aged children. “Not getting a subsidy will not make it impossible for our family to continue on, but the subsidy would make it a lot easier to make ends meet at the end of the month,” she said, adding her letter was processed on Sept 14, just days before the Star story ran.

Naomi Weinroth, manager of Child Care Services at the Region of York, says the region’s current financial reality was not reflected in the letter.

“Historically, we did have limited funds. Her letter had not been updated, and has since we found out about this. All of our correspondence has been updated,” said Weinroth. “Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

Weinroth says the letter now tells applicants they will be called in for an intake appointment. Liscio’s original letter did not clarify that, nor was she told this over the phone, she said.

While she can’t comment on Liscio’s case, Weinroth said normally families who make less than $36,000 receive first priority along with those who are “experiencing exceptional circumstances.”

Other applicants are then are added to a queue until the next available appointment. Weinroth was unable to give a timeline of how long the wait can be, and said it’s based on “call volume.”

In the past year, the province announced a major investment in child care funding. York Region received $14 million in additional funds in 2017 to spend on its child-care program. Peel says it received a $21 million cash injection in additional federal-provincial funding to put towards making child care more accessible — and to be used by the end of this year.

Weinroth says the region received a number of calls after the Star story, but is still open to applicants.

Liscio says the whole experience of applying for a subsidy has been far from easy.

To learn if she was even eligible, she said she first had to call, after which she received an application, and then had to snail mail in her notice of assessment, after which she received the letter.

Despite a recent phone conversation with the region, she still wasn’t able to get further clarification on when her interview would be, and was told it was because the department was short-staffed.

Weinroth says they are always looking for ways to streamline the process, and will soon be launching an online eligibility calculator.

In the meantime, Liscio says instead of spending money on a campaign, they should just work on helping those who are already waiting.

“If they can’t help the ones they have, it doesn’t make sense they are going out asking for more,” she said.

But Indira Naidoo-Harris, the provincial minister responsible for early years and child care, said local service managers in York Region are doing the right thing, raising awareness and “being proactive by getting the word out and making families aware that this funding is available for them.

The provincial funding provided is flexible, she said, and her ministry is “working with the local service managers to ensure that they are available to deliver the services that are needed.”

While the money can be used for subsidized spaces, “it also goes towards creating affordable quality, accessible child care — so it can be used, for example, when fees are too high,” said Naidoo-Harris. “They have the flexibility to move that money into the streams where it’s needed and so our teams are working with them.”

It’s a good problem to have and I think that families in that region are going to be well served.”

-reprinted from Toronto Star