SAINT JOHN (GNB) – A total of 89 early learning and child care facilities in the Saint John region have benefited from $704,797 under the provincial government’s One-Time Quality Improvement Grant program.

“Investing in early childhood learning and education is one of the best ways we can grow our economy,” said Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet. “That is why early childhood and education is one of our government’s top priorities.”

Doucet spoke on behalf of Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny.

The grants help facilities improve indoor and outdoor learning environments, including equipment and materials, for children aged five and under. At least 50 per cent of the grant must be used to enhance or create more natural outdoor play spaces for children.

Doucet toured South End Daycare, which received $6,091 to enhance its outdoor play space by creating nature-based experiences and a sensory learning environment for children.

“The One-time Quality Improvement Grant has helped us a great deal,” said Mona Clark, the daycare’s executive director. “We are a non-profit charitable organization and funding for new equipment is always a struggle. This funding has allowed us to purchase an outdoor easel and art supplies, create a mud kitchen, build music and ball walls, construct a tree bench and more. We truly appreciate the financial assistance that has allowed us to provide high-quality services that the children and families of New Brunswick deserve.”

The one-time grants will total $4.7 million over two years. In the first year, 506 early learning and child care facilities across New Brunswick have taken advantage of the grant.

The deadline for applying for the one-time quality improvement grant for 2018-19 is Feb. 28, 2019. The grant will be available to all licensed facilities offering services to preschool children aged five and under that have become designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centres.

The One-Time Quality Improvement Grant is part of a federal-provincial, three-year early learning and child care agreement that commits $71 million in investments to improve early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the province.

“One of the most effective ways for governments to combat intergenerational poverty is to make substantial investments in early learning and child care,” said Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long. “That is why I am incredibly proud of the transformative investments in early learning and child care facilities in Saint John-Rothesay that we have announced with our provincial partners today.”

Long attended for federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Through this agreement, $7.5 million will be awarded annually under the grant to help facilities deliver good-quality child care and meet the criteria to become a designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centre. Saint John and the Greater Edmundston area were the first two regions in which daycares were eligible to apply for that designation.

In Saint John, 41 of 42 eligible daycares have been designated as early learning centres or are in the process of obtaining that designation. Twenty of these facilities are in what the government has identified as priority neighbourhoods. All eligible facilities in these priority neighbourhoods are designated centres.

An announcement will be made soon concerning other regions where child care centres may apply to become designated early learning centres.