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Penticton  

Daycare stuck in red tape

Chelsea Powrie

Two sisters who moved to Penticton in the hope of starting up a daycare business are feeling frustrated with the B.C. government, after attempting to apply for newly announced childcare funding and being denied due to unclear wording. 

Kristen Armstrong and Janine Demkier moved to Penticton to start Two Peas in a Pod, a zero to 12, two-floor daycare space currently under renovation on Wiltse Boulevard. 

"We reached out through social media before we moved," Demkier said. "The need for childcare was insane."

The two saw the news in July that the B.C. government would be providing $221 million in funding, known as the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, to create new childcare in the province, doled out to both private and public, for-profit and charity businesses. Armstrong and Demkier felt sure their services, which fill a gaping need in Penticton, would qualify, especially given their dedication to providing an inclusive, progressive space. 

"We applied, we got all our credentials, our ducks in a row, we had more than enough information that we provided to them, and we got an email back saying that we did not answer the questions appropriately," Demkier said. 

They were dismayed to discover that since their application, the format and wording of the application had changed. Demkier and Armstrong were asked yes or no questions regarding their inclusivity policies, outreach plans, community goals and the like.

"Our application stated, 'Will you service the community?' And our answer was yes," Demkier said. 

They were not asked to explain the how or why. 

"We reached out through social media yesterday, just to see if anyone else has had the same problems as us, and they've basically gotten the same email as us, as to why they're not accepted, not answering the questions correctly," Armstrong said. "The government did not think through their application form."

The form has since been upgraded and the questions made more detailed, which Armstrong and Demkier say the government acknowledged to them when they questioned their denial. There now appears to be technical difficulties with the public accessing it, though. Castanet had to have a government employee scan the document and email it, since the link online is broken. 

Armstrong and Demkier could still reapply, but they're frustrated at losing the months of work they put into their first application, and the lengthy process that a second attempt would entail. 

"It takes six to eight weeks to hear back. Unfortunately, we have families counting on us to open our doors, and we don't have an other six to eight weeks," Armstrong said. 

The duo was looking for $250,000, the maximum amount a private, for-profit business could ask for. Their costs overall are sitting at around $350,000, just to furnish and renovate the centre. They are planning to offer higher than normal wages for their staff, and offer a low cost to families enrolling their children. 

"People enjoy thinking childcare owners are out to make it rich when in fact we are putting our family livelihood on the line trying to help the people and families of our community," Armstrong.

They hope to stick to their opening date of Jan. 2. They have 61 families on their waitlist for when they open, a responsibility Armstrong and Demkier take seriously. The reworded application isn't much help, they say, for the families waiting for their doors to open. 

"I was denied funding because of a mistake made by them and not me. We are being punished for being ahead of the game and already starting the process of opening a childcare centre," Armstrong said. 

Castanet reached out to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and was provided a copy of the application form, but no official called back with comment by deadline. 

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