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COVID-19 Q&A with the Ministry of Education

April 17, 2020

Please see below for a question and answer exchange with Shannon Fuller from the Ministry of Education regarding COVID-19 and Independent Home Child Care.

 

1. Should an Independent Home Child Care Provider be open for business if the families they serve are not essential workers?  For example, parents are home working, or on parental leave, but prefer to send their child to daycare.

As part of our government’s efforts to protect Ontario families, on March 17, 2020, the Premier of Ontario declared a state of emergency and ordered the temporary closure of licensed child care centres. Workplaces deemed essential are exempt from the order to close, including emergency child care services for frontline workers and home child care services.

Home child care providers overseen by licensed agencies may still operate and care for a maximum of 6 children under 13 years of age and unlicensed home child care providers can care for a maximum of 5 children. If a local public health organization recommends the closure of a home child care in a particular municipality, that order needs to be followed.

2. If a home child care provider has had to temporarily close their business due to COVID-19 related reasons (illness (self or household member), high risk for illness (self or household member), provider’s own children are home from school requiring attention and care, provider does not feel that they can respect physical distancing guidelines, provider does not feel it is safe to be open, etc.) can the provider still charge the parents a full or partial fee during the temporary closure?

The Minister of Education announced that effective April 9, all child care providers are prohibited from charging fees to parents where care is not being provided and that parents will not lose their child care space or be otherwise penalized as a result of fees not being paid during this closure period. If fees have been paid in advance by parents, child care providers should reimburse parents for any fees paid for April 9 and beyond.

Even though a home child care provider (licensed and unlicensed) is able under the provincial emergency order to operate, in cases where they have closed or a parent has decided to remove their child due to COVID-19, the home child care provider is prohibited from charging parent fees, effective April 9.

3. What are the caregiver’s obligations regarding holding a spot for a parent, while temporarily closed, if the parent is not paying a fee?

Under the emergency order issued April 9, all child care providers are prohibited from charging fees to parents where care is not being provided. The order also prohibits child care providers from penalizing parents, for example taking a child care space away from parents, who have not paid fees during this period of closure.

4. Does the “no fee for child care” regulation apply to home child care providers who are remaining open for business?  I understand that “home-based child care providers (licensed and unlicensed), are permitted to continue to operate” (https://www.news.ontario.ca/edu/en/2020/04/ontario-taking-action-to-support-parents-during-covid-19.html).  If they continue to operate (remain open for business) and a parent chooses to not send their child due to COVID-19 related reasons (illness, respecting physical distancing measures, parent is working from home, parent has loss of income or employment, etc.) can the provider still charge the parent a full or partial fee?

Even though a home child care provider (licensed and unlicensed) is able under the provincial emergency order to operate, in cases where they have closed or a parent has decided to remove their child due to COVID-19, the home child care provider is prohibited from charging parent fees, effective April 9. If fees have been paid in advance by parents, child care providers should reimburse parents for any fees paid for April 9 and beyond.

5. What are the caregiver’s obligations regarding holding a spot for a parent who is choosing to keep their child at home?  From a business perspective it is unreasonable to expect a provider to hold a spot for free, indefinitely, if the business is open.  One spot typically represents 20% of the provider’s income.

Under the emergency order issued April 9, all child care providers are prohibited from charging fees to parents where care is not being provided. The order also prohibits child care providers from penalizing parents, for example taking a child care space away from parents, who have not paid fees during this period of closure.

6. Many independent home child care providers have contracts that stipulate parent fees are due regardless of attendance.  For example: the family has travelled and are now self-isolating, the child is not attending care but the fees are still due to the provider.  Does this new regulation “EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND CIVIL PROTECTION ACT ORDER UNDER SUBSECTION 7.0.2 (4) OF THE ACT – CHILD CARE FEES” override home child care contracts currently in place?

The emergency order is the law in Ontario and supersedes the terms of any child care contracts. Under the emergency order issued April 9, all child care providers are prohibited from charging fees to parents where care is not being provided.

7. Can/does the local public health unit supersede other provincial/municipal authorities?  For example, although “home-based child care providers (licensed and unlicensed), are permitted to continue to operate”, it does not necessarily mean that they should continue to operate…(for instance, if they are showing signs of COVID-19 or if they have travelled recently)…is it correct to say that all home child care providers should be following the recommendations of their local public health unit?

Child care providers should follow the recommendations of their local public health organization. If a local public health organization recommends the closure of a home child care in a particular municipality, that order needs to be followed.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health has developed a guidance document to support those operating emergency child care centres. It provides helpful advice, including requirements for health and safety, how to screen individuals accessing the centre (children, parents and staff), what to do if a child begins to show symptoms of COVID-19, and requirements for promoting the health and safety of staff. It can be found at: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/2019_child_care_guidance.pdf

8. Are Independent Home Child Care Providers eligible to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

If they have made the decision to close their business due to COVID-19 related reasons (illness (self or household member), high risk for illness (self or household member), provider’s own children are home from school requiring attention and care, provider does not feel that they can respect physical distancing guidelines, provider does not feel it is safe to be open, etc.)

If they have no income because all families have either withdrawn from services or are not paying fees due to COVID-19 related reasons?

The supports announced recently by the federal government offer financial assistance for businesses and individuals, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for businesses and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for individuals. We encourage child care providers to research and optimize these federal supports.

For your ease of reference, below is a link to the federal government site that outlines all federal supports in Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan:

https://www.canada.ca/en/departmentfinance/economicresponseplan.html

9. What provisions are in place for Independent Home Child Care Providers who are working at a reduced income (open for business but only have 1 or 2 children in their care (presumably children of essential workers) due to COVID-19 related reasons)?

The supports announced recently by the federal government offer financial assistance for businesses and individuals, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for businesses and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for individuals. We encourage child care providers to research and optimize these federal supports.

For your ease of reference, below is a link to the federal government site that outlines all federal supports in Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan:

https://www.canada.ca/en/departmentfinance/economicresponseplan.html