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British Columbia’s children’s minister visited a child care facility in Coquitlam on Friday to explain how the government intends to create thousands more child care spaces across the province.

Katrine Conroy said providers can now apply to the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund for a portion of the $237 million that was announced in the spring budget for such programs.

She said $221 million has been earmarked specifically for the new spaces fund and it will be available to private-sector, non-profit and public-sector child care providers, with the aim of creating 22,000 new licensed spaces over the next three years.

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Katrina Chen, minister of state for child care, said the new fund will also support the creation of spaces on school grounds for before- and after-school care for elementary-aged youngsters.

It will give boards of education 100 per cent eligibility, up from 90 per cent, for the total cost of any child care project they launch, up to a maximum of $500,000, Chen said.

“Too many parents are dealing with a lack of good options when it comes to child care, and that’s only made worse as spaces close due to financial pressures on child care operators,” she said.

Spaces for infant and toddler care continue to top the list of priorities and funding preference will be given to communities with the greatest need, such as fast-developing urban centres and Indigenous, rural and remote communities.

Public-sector partnerships, including local governments and school districts working with other non-profit providers to create child care spaces, will also be eligible for funding of up to 100 per cent of the total cost of a project, to a maximum of $1-million, Chen said.

Not-for-profit organizations remain eligible for up to 90 per cent of any project, to a maximum of $500,000 while private child care providers can apply for 75 per cent of the cost of adding new spaces, to a maximum of $250,000.

Conroy said a streamlined application process and ongoing funding requests will replace fixed days for funding applications to ensure child care spaces will be continually built throughout the year.

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She said her heart sinks when she hears of another child care centre closing because the rent is too high or its lease has not been renewed.

Without adequate early childhood education, “not only do children and families lose out on the opportunity to grow but we collectively, as a society, diminish our young people’s opportunities to learn and be inspired, and the parent’s opportunity to participate in B.C.’s economy,” Conroy said.

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