Nunavut daycares say they’re at risk of going bankrupt during pandemic

GN says it has spent around $900,000 on subsidies, urges daycares to apply for federal funding

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett cuts the ribbon to mark the official opening of Iqaluit’s new daycare centre on July 8, 2019. A group of daycare directors in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet is asking the Government of Nunavut for financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that federal programs won’t be enough to keep them afloat. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

A group of daycare workers in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet are requesting additional financial support from the Nunavut government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An April 19 letter submitted to David Joanasie, Nunavut’s minister of education, asks for immediate financial assistance from the Government of Nunavut.

The letter is signed by eight executive directors and co-directors of Qikiqtaaluk child-care centres.

“The fragile ELCC sector in Nunavut requires urgent financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are requesting immediate sector-specific aide from the federal government and the Government of Nunavut,” the letter states.

The letter states that as of April 19, child-care centres that have enough money in savings will only be able to cover the next two to three pay cycles.

“Once these funds have been depleted, and without adequate sector-specific aid, we will not be able to sustain operations. In turn, we will become insolvent and ultimately go bankrupt,” the letter states.

The letter also states that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will not be enough.

“The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy of 75% will not cover our staff wages. It will not cover our rent and utility bills. The Canada Emergency Relief Benefit will only serve to slash our educators’ already incredibly low wages. This will create further undue stress for Nunavut residents who are already dealing with food insecurity and high living costs,” the letter states.

In Nunavut, child-care centres are run by non-profit societies. The Department of Education licenses community early childhood facilities and provides start-up and annual operations funding to non-profit licensed child-care facilities. Non-profit organizations can receive funding to support new and existing child-care facilities.

“If we must lay off our Early Childhood Educators, it is very likely that they will not return to this field because of low wages and a lack of recognition for the work that they do,” the letter states.

On March 19, Finance Minister George Hickes announced that licensed child-care facilities in the territory would receive $531,000 to cover potential lost fees.

At a news conference on April 20, Premier Joe Savikataaq told reporters the GN has spent nearly $900,000 to help subsidize daycares since the pandemic began. That funding ended on April 21, Savikataaq said.

“There’s federal programs available that they can tap into,” Savikataaq said on April 20.

Finance Minister George Hickes said one of the GN’s main concerns with covering costs for daycares is that doing so would make them ineligible for federal funding.

“They wouldn’t be showing the losses that are needed to qualify for the wage subsidy funding,” Hickes said.

“We do recognize that’s still going to continue to put challenges to the daycares. One of the silver linings, if you want to call it that, is … this COVID issue … arose through the new fiscal year. It gives the daycares [the] ability to use their allocated funds for this year to build their inventory, to still do their sealift orders, to make sure they’re ready to open when they can safely do so.”

Branwen Purnell, executive director of Tundra Buddies Daycare in Iqaluit, told Nunatsiaq News the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would not be enough to keep the daycare afloat.

“We are encouraged as businesses to ‘top-up’ that 75 per cent so that employees are getting their full wages. We cannot do that and are not in a financial position to do so. As non-profit childcare centres we rely entirely on parent fees (which are not being charged at the moment), federal funding and donations. With employees only making 75 per cent of their wages, it is likely that they will leave for alternative work,” Purnell said in an email.

Purnell said daycare employees could apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, but they would need to prove they will not make any money for a four-week period.

Purnell also said the group received a response to their letter stating there will be no additional funding from the Government of Nunavut for child-care centres.

“Personally it was very upsetting, because early childhood education is routinely swept aside. We are licensed by the Department of Education yet are consistently overlooked,” Purnell said.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Why u dum on

    This is a classic case of passing the buck…Mr. Hicks is correct that workers and centres should apply for federal dollars….however it was a lot easier to get the money from territorial government…a lot easier

    • Posted by Christine on

      Even if daycares applied for the wage subsidy how would they top up the remaining 25%? How would they pay their Rent, Federal payroll tax, Nunavut payroll tax, WSCC and power just to name a few expenses in order to reopen doors when the time comes? The general public and GN are very uneducated when it comes to how daycares operate. Daycares constantly struggle just to make payroll so this idea Minister Hicks has about spending money on sealift is absurd! Most centers cannot afford such a luxury. It is not only about paying and retaining staff it’s about keeping centres operational in order to reopen. While another benefit for EI, CERB, is great for Southerners, it sadly does not reflect the high cost of living in the North and staff cannot survive on that amount. The GN licenses all Nunavut daycares and they have to follow their rules and regulations. More needs to be done for those centres so we have a place for our children when we are able to return to work otherwise we face a devastating reality. Wake up now before some of our centres are permanently closed. The lack of Childcare in Nunavut is already drastic, we can’t afford to make it worse. They are always pushing Early Childhood Learning and Education well now the the time to support it and stand behind the words. Why would anyone want to take ECE at Arctic College when the daycares are left to struggle all the time and now in a pandemic they risk closing their doors?Shameful! The children are our future. Have you forgotten that???!!!

      • Posted by Christine on

        Also the GN will continue to pay the monthly Operation and Maintenance funding to the centres however, that only covers the monthly federal payroll tax so how are they supposed to pay their other bills? Much more to this than people realize. Daycares are not looking for a handout. They are looking for survival!

        • Posted by Jenn on

          You are absolutely right!! The lack of insight in what it takes to keep daycares open is disturbing!!

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    And not just daycares. Afterschool programs are also entirely parent funded and I doubt that a single program will survive to the new school year.

  3. Posted by How about this?! on

    The money that’s being spent on quarantining teachers at the 4 entry points would have been much better served to go to these daycares. Hey… what’s the percentage of work that’s getting picked up and completed? I bet it’s abysmal like true attendance records.

  4. Posted by NTI pretty usual on

    Let’s not forget that throughout this whole thing (I.e. funding for daycares, breakfast programs etc); NTI has been sitting back and holding onto their coin purses pretty tight. Haven’t heard a peep from them at all.

    Should anyone be surprised?!

    NTI is a joke

    • Posted by Two classes on

      You’re right. NTI won’t even have to spend money this year for its annual Nunavut day BBQ and will save there as well.

      It is a great example of a caste system in 2020. A few wealthy inuit control the over $1bil paid for the land claim. They do almost nothing with that for Inuit in need that I can see. A few plane tickets for funerals? A few scholarships? Why are they not called on to build housing and solve social issues unique to inuit.

      All they do is fund law suits against govt looking for more cash and handouts.

      • Posted by Separatism For Fun and Games on

        Let it grow even bigger, and then use it to fund a separatist movement in a decade or so.

        Destroying Canada by creating an Inuit-only country where non-Inuit are second class ‘non-citizens’ is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

      • Posted by concerned optimist on

        I AGREE! My dream is to one day see all the money trickle down to ALL members of the community. There’s a lot of monies flowing into this territory, and I am so, so sad not seeing it go to the people, but instead to the few who, as all can see, are doing “alright”.

  5. Posted by Angel. on

    1.Review your budget?
    2.How many children in your center?
    4.How many employees?
    3.What is the salary per staff per hour ,and what is the salary for center director per hour?
    4.List all your expense items:
    Example: Rent, food, Utility bills, children toys or equipment.
    List all your revenue items:
    4.At this current time,staff can go for EI while daycare is closing for Covid19?
    5.What is your plan for the money you requested?
    The important rules, you must managing your budget well.

    • Posted by Clueless on

      You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!! Do some research on what it actually takes to run a large Centre run by a nonprofit society instead of giving a basic rudimentary accounting lesson that does not come close to bring relevant to this situation.

      • Posted by Rude on

        Clueless, beside that you are clueless and rude, you are just another one who wants handouts. Watch thew news and witness what Canadian companies are going through. Not for Profit or not, all businesses and employees are going through a hard time. Grow up, apply for the available fundings and cross your fingers that the situation will improve soon. Always blaming someone else and always ask for a bailout just don’t work, Nunavut or not.
        Just in comparrison to an earlier comment about the NTI and that they are sitting on all the available Land Claim funds, Nunavut has a population of about 39000. Deduct the lazy and not welcomed southerners (say 6000) this leaves you with a population of about 33000. Now, give every Nunavummiut $1,000.00. How much money does the NTI has again? How much is left to support social issues? How much is left to build houses and maintain them? How much is left to support poor budgeted businesses? Do your math

    • Posted by Duh! on

      Wow, I doubt anyone has considered the issues and problems in such a concise way! You’re wasting your talents on the Nunatsiaq news forum. You should clearly by a Minister of something.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      Who will choose to work in Nunavut if they have a family and no access to licensed and regulated daycare because the government chose to let them go bankrupt? There’s a loss of a LOT of workers right there. Some of which are critical!

      Do you expect families to continue paying upwards of $1,500 a month per child while daycares are closed? AND for an unregulated babysitter who probably doesn’t have first aid/cpr?

      If by some miracle daycares survive who would come back to work in them when at the least they make $15 an hour and really at most $25?

      If you want to know how much a government cares about education look at the state of daycares! Wake up!

  6. Posted by Anonymous on

    Plus, the daycare workers that are actually trained will leave daycare work all together to work in the schools if daycares are closed! Then they REALLY won’t be going back to their old daycare jobs!

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