Early in February, the province announced a $1,200 one-time Critical Worker Benefit to eligible Albertans to recognize the hard work they have done in caring and critical services through the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Critical Worker Benefit was announced, the Ministry of Children’s Services indicated that the $25/hour wage cap did not apply to our sector. There was no mention other than a required 243 hours of staff support funded hours. However, last week, programs received an email from the Ministry of Children's Services that stated the $25/hour cap is in place and that those with wages above this will not qualify. These vital front-line workers who have remained at work or returned to work quickly are being left out of the recognition they deserve.
AECEA received information from its membership that showed that the Ministry's claims office stated the ECEs making above the $25/hour cap WOULD be eligible. Up until March 15, 2021, on the government’s own website at https://www.alberta.ca/critical-worker-benefit.aspx, the cap was listed under certain industries but not under Children’s Services - early childhood educators.
AECEA has sent a letter to Minister Schulz requesting clarification around eligibility and the Alberta Government's reasoning behind the roles that were selected to receive the benefit. To view the letter sent to Minister Schulz, go here.
Minister Schulz commented a response on AECEA's Instagram post stating the following:
"We’re so proud to be one of very few provinces who included early childhood educators in our Critical Worker Benefit. I felt this was important given they stepped up at a time of uncertainty, to support working parents and support the early learning of children across the province.
As my office clarified with yours last week, we wanted to keep it simple, so there really isn’t a “cut off” for those ECEs working in frontline positions. For example, we didn’t want confusion of whether an ECE making $26 an hour might not receive the benefit would be penalized when someone making $25 for the same work would receive it. However, some ECEs in management or supervisory positions could earn a much higher salary, which isn’t what the Critical Worker Benefit is designed for. So a simpler way of providing that direction was to provide the benefit for those making less than $25/hour pre wage top-up.
We’ve received very few calls for clarification but if you have people asking, please direct them our way so we can help them through the program."