UPDATE, April 1:
Education Minister and Member for Wannon Dan Tehan has told the Ararat Advertiser the federal government will announce a plan to assist the struggling childcare industry - including centres in Ararat - in the coming days.
"I have been working on solutions to support the child care sector. I know that centres like Ararat Early Learning Centre are facing huge challenges because of COVID-19," Mr Tehan said.
"The Federal Government will announce its plan in coming days.
"Child Care Centres should access the $130 billion JobKeeper payment to help keep their employees in jobs and lessen the impact on their businesses.
:Our Government has also increased the number of days a family can claim an absence from care to 62. That means child care centres will continue to receive the Child Care Subsidy if a family's child is absent from care for any reason on those days.
"The Government has also waived the requirement for services to enforce payment of out of pocket fees by families for child care services who have been directed to close on public health advice as a result of COVID-19."
Louise Staley told the Ararat Advertiser the JobKeeper package will provide much needed assistance to the struggling childcare industry after Ararat Early Learning Centre owner Kerri Turner called on the state and federal governments for immediate assistance.
"This week the Federal Government announced their $130 billion 'JobKeeper' package," Ms Staley said.
"Childcare fits within this package and, as such, will assist Childcare Providers like Ararat Early Learning Centre and other centres across the Ripon electorate.
"The State and Federal Governments have been and, continue to have, active discussions with the Childcare sector to ensure that they can remain open and keep caring for the children of our frontline workers.
"I want to ensure that all Childcare centres across Ripon can remain viable and remain open. I am working closely with my colleague, Cindy McLiesh MP, Shadow Minister for Education, to represent the concerns of childcare business owners and workers in my electorate."
DECLINING childcare rates have prompted an Ararat centre to call for more support from the government.
Ararat Early Learning Centre owner and early childhood educator Kerri Turner said she is faced with making employees redundant without the support after her client base dropped to 25 per cent its usual number.
"I employ 25 educators and they love their jobs and rely on my for their income," she said.
"Now we've got a lot of children that aren't attending due to COVID-19, and that's totally understandable.
"This week and last we've also had parents that have lost their jobs so they can't afford to send their children anymore."
Those families continuing to send their children to the centre are often essential workers who rely on childcare services so they can continue to work.
"We've got nurses and one parent who works at the supermarket," Ms Turner said.
Ms Turner said she had written to Member for Wannon and Education Minister Dan Tehan and Member for Ripon Louise Staley earlier this week and is awaiting a response.
The government has already announced it is looking at other ways to assist the struggling industry.
She said she is asking for the government to continue paying the Childcare Subsidy to early learning centres and waive the gap payment for parents.
"For one child to get childcare, they get a Childcare Subsidy percentage and that allows them to have a certain amount of their fees paid by the government, and then the family pays the remainder which we call the gap fee," Ms Turner said.
Ms Turner said the government has committed to paying the subsidies in the event the centre is forced to close, or stage four restrictions are announced, but Ms Turner said that help is needed now.
"We don't have those (CCS or gap) fees coming in anymore so I'm faced with the choice of making employees redundant or closing us down," she said.
"We want the government to cover the CCS and allow parents to maintain their spot for the children, so once we do recover they can send their children back to childcare."
Ms Turner said it was too early to determine if the JobKeeper payment announced by the federal government Monday would make a difference to the situation.
"I assume it would (help) but if there's no money coming in from the government I'm going to rely wholly and solely on JobKeeper to pay my wages and we're not going to have any children to look after," she said.
The Ararat Advertiser has reached out to Dan Tehan and Louise Staley for comment and will update this story with their responses.
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