by Surjit Singh Flora
On the back of a sprawling 2021 budget, Education Minister Stephen Lecce unveiled plans Wednesday to boost a childcare benefit for families during the COVID-19 pandemic. $400 will be given per child as part of the new benefit, which is planned to begin on Apr. 26. “With greater access to vaccines, we will defeat this pandemic. Until we get there, our government will continue to step up to support families with additional financial support and childcare relief,” Lecce said Wednesday afternoon during a press conference held at the Boys and Girls Club of Durham. Lecce was joined by Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy to announce the supports, which boast a $980 million price tag and are the third such round of payments as part of the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit Payments, which are aimed at offsetting learning costs.
The supports will deliver $400 per child in Grade 12 or younger, or $500 per youth with special needs up to the age of 21. The government is automatically providing this round of payments to parents who received Support for Learners payments, and they can expect money to begin flowing on Apr. 26. Parents who did not apply for or receive the Support for Learners program can apply for the new funding starting May 3, with a deadline of May 17.
The new round of fund brings the price of direct support to parents up to $1.8 billion since the pandemic began. “Every parent in Ontario has faced new pressures due to COVID-19,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “For some, that includes financial challenges caused by the pandemic. For many, it includes new expenses to support virtual learning or childcare.
And for all, it includes anxiety about their child’s future in a world that will look different than it does today. While our government can’t make this pressure go away, we can provide a helping hand. By putting more money back into parents’ pockets, Ontario families will be stronger. And strong families make a strong province.” The provincial budget, announced last week, also proposes a 20 per cent enhancement to the Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit for 2021.
This would increase support from $1,250 to $1,500, on average, providing about $75 million in additional support for the childcare expenses of over 300,000 families. “We know affordable childcare will be critical,” said Lecce. “While we need the federal government to dramatically step-up support for childcare — currently supporting only 2.5 per cent of childcare costs in Ontario — our government is taking immediate action to help parents save more on their childcare costs.”
Lecce also indicated Wednesday that the normal April Break holiday is expected to go forward as normal throughout the province, though that may change based on the province’s imminent announcement of a four-week provincial lockdown to curb rising COVID-19 cases. Look for additional information in future editions of Peel Weekly News. Education Minister Stephen Lecce (centre) speaks during a press conference held at the Boys and Girls Club of Durham on Mar. 31, 2021.