Monday, August 25, 2014

Temporary Education Support for Parents - the $40 per day to parents - a well hidden program

BC announced the $40 a day payment to parents of kids under age of 13 that are registered in BC public schools three and a half weeks ago.    There are very few details about the program online and finding that information is not easy at all.   I can not find a link to http://bcparentinfo.ca/parent-support-resources/ anywhere on the Ministry of Education website.  Overall, other than as a spin line for politicians, there is very little useful information on any government website about the program

What I have found out since August 1st is that the program is called Temporary Education Support for Parents but there is still very little information on the website for the program.   The total information about the program is only 255 words long.  All the information could be covered by 12 tweets.

What has changed since the announcement is that people will be able to register retroactively for up to four months after the strike ends.  Initially you had to register before becoming eligible to collect the payment but clearly someone figured out that this was not going to be realistically possible to implement, which I pointed out when this was announced.

I still have no idea how the program will be rolled out and I worry that it will all be created after the strike is done.   Since the announcement there has been more than enough time to clearly explain what the program is and clearly indicate the eligibility rules with links to more information.  I thought the announcement of the program was clear on who would be eligible but that is not how everyone sees it.

In speaking with some parents there is a lot of confusion about the program and what they can use the $40 for.   People think you have to register your child in some form of formal education type of program or at least in some form of licensed daycare program.    Parents would then only be eligible for the expenses paid out.   The website can be read in that way because of the following two sentences from the website:

The Ministry of Finance recently announced the Temporary Education Support for Parents to help with learning and supervision in the event the labour disruption goes into September. 

and

The primary caregiver may receive $40 per eligible child for each day the child is not in school as a result of the labour disruption.

The first sentence from the website seems to say that the money has to be connected to some sort of out of pocket expense on the part of parents.

The second sentence includes the word may receive.   It is not will receive, but may receive.   This wording could be read that  you are not automatically approved for the money unless you meet some criteria beyond having a child under age 13 in the public school system.

I phoned the number on the website for information and all I got was someone reading off of the website that I was looking at.   It is as if no one has thought out who this program would work.  I suspect that the system will have serious problems dealing with the influx of applications once the strike is over.

Here are a few more wrinkles

  • Do students enrolled in distance education programs, full time or part time, qualify?
  • Will this support be available to foreign students enrolled in BC?
  • Who do is primary caregiver defined?   In the case of a joint custody any government payments are normally split between the two parents.
  • Will foster parents get this payment as well?
  • Will this have to be declared as income and does mean it will be taxed?   If it is not tax free, roughly an average of $2 of each $40 payment will flow back to the provincial government and $3.50 of each $40 payment will flow to the federal government.  That is an extra $638,000 per missed school day for the province and $1,100,000 per missed school day for the feds.
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