COVID-19 Support for the early childhood sector
COVID-19 Support for the early childhood sector
After weeks of pleading for help, the early childhood sector can breathe a small sigh of relief this week after the government announced its Early Childhood Education and Care Support package, which commenced yesterday and complements existing lifelines available to the sector.
The package has been designed to ensure early childhood services are available for frontline workers and disadvantaged families during the pandemic, as well as to ensure the viability of the sector at the conclusion of this critical stage of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
How will it work?
From yesterday 6 April, the government will provide fortnightly Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments, instead of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS), until the end of the financial year on 30 June.
Services do not need to apply for the payment, it will flow to them automatically, and will be based on the number of children who were enrolled during the fortnight leading up to 2 March, regardless of whether they were actually attending.
The government will pay 50 per cent of a service’s fee revenue, up to the hourly rate cap, earned by a service between Monday 17 Feb and Sunday 1 March.
If a service charges more than the hourly rate caps described by the CCS then the payment will be capped at the maximum rate. Current rate caps are $11.98 per hour for centre based care, $11.98 for outside school hours care and $11.10 for family day care.
The payments for services providing holiday care will be calculated on the equivalent of the average weekly amount for the holiday period between terms three and four in 2019.
In special circumstances, services can request a higher percentage of revenue be paid to them. For example, this might apply to services located near a hospital providing education and care to a large number of frontline workers. The government says additional information about this will be available soon.
Services can choose how they spend their payments, however, to continue to be eligible they must remain open (unless closed for public health reasons) and must not charge families a gap fee for care.
In addition, services must continue to record attendance information, including arrival and departure times for children in attendance and must continue to send families statements on the sessions of care that have been provided.
Services must also, to the best of their ability, continue to practice business as usual, which means adhering to their obligations under the National Quality Framework and any other relevant regulations and laws.
How does the JobKeeper payment fit in to all this?
The government says the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief package will work in tandem with the recently announced JobKeeper Payment and eligible services can receive both.
The JobKeeper Payment offers a subsidy of $1500 per employee per fortnight for six months to businesses with a turnover of less than $1billion, that have lost 30 per cent or more of their revenue, as well as registered not for profits of any size that can demonstrate a 15 per cent decline in turnover due to COVID-19.
The subsidy can be paid by an early childhood service directly to staff that are
- Full time and part time employees, including long term casuals that have been employed for at least 12 months, that were on the books at 1 March 2020
- Any employees that have been stood down since 1 March 2020
- Employees that fulfil the first two criteria and are Australian residents, New Zealand citizens in Australia working on a 444 visa and migrants who are eligible for JobSeeker payment or Youth Allowance
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he hoped the Early Childhood Education and Care Package in tandem with the JobKeeper payment will work to keep many of the sector’s 13,000 early learning services open.
“These services are vital for so many parents so they can provide for their family, and children need as much familiarity and continuity as we can help provide at this unsettling time.
“This plan complements more than $1 billion we expect the sector to receive through our new JobKeeper payment to help ensure many of the 200,000 vital early education workforce can stay connected to services.
“It means building a bridge for these valuable services to the other side of this virus so they can continue to play their valuable role in our workforce and education systems and so Australia can bounce back strongly.”
Additional funding for Victorian kinder providers
In addition to the federal support described above, the Victorian government is providing local safeguards to protect the viability of Victorian early childhood providers via extra funding to support sessional providers.
The funding offers $485 per enrolled child for term two to community based, local government and school providers, to ensure they can continue to provide education and care for the children of essential services and vulnerable children, subject to public health directives.
To be eligible to receive this funding services must not charge families and should allow children to attend 15 hours per week for free.
Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino says the additional funding means providers will remain financially viable even if enrolments drop as parents keep their children at home.
“Our kinder teachers and staff are doing an outstanding job ensuring Victorian children continue to get early childhood education during this challenging period – the last thing they should be worried about is losing their jobs,” he said.
Other sources of support early childhood services may be eligible for
In addition to the recently announced ECEC Support package and JobKeeper Payment, the government has previously announced other temporary sources of financial support which early childhood services may be eligible for, these include:
Boosting Cash Flow for Employers Payments
Under this scheme eligible employers, including early childhood services, will receive a 100 per cent rebate of PAYG paid on behalf of employees for the quarter ended March 2020 and June 2020.
Services will receive between $10,000 and $50,000 per quarter, these payments are tax free and will flow automatically from the ATO from early May, with no application required.
Small and medium businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million are eligible for the rebate, and this includes not for profits.
You can learn more about this rebate on the ATO website.
State and Territory support including payroll tax deferrals, rebates and waivers
Profit-based early childhood services that pay payroll tax may also be eligible for support via a range of State and Territory initiatives which have been rolled out since March.
- Australian Capital Territory: Payroll tax deferrals
- New South Wales: Payroll tax waivers and threshold increases
- Northern Territories: Payroll tax exemptions and grants for business improvement and not for profits
- Queensland: Payroll tax refunds, waivers and deferrals, and job support loans
- South Australia: Payroll tax waiver, deferral and Business Support Fund
- Tasmania: Payroll tax waivers, grants and loans
- Victoria: Payroll tax refunds and payroll tax deferrals
- Western Australia: One off grants, payroll tax deferrals and threshold increases
Early childhood services seeking information about COVID-19 should contact the 24/7 National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. Information is also available from https://www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 07 April 2020
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