The B.C. government reversed course late Friday afternoon and agreed to pick up the cost of Family Day for agencies that provide services to vulnerable families.
The announcement came just hours after several executive directors complained to the Times Colonist that the province was downloading the cost of the new statutory holiday onto front-line agencies.
“The Family Day holiday has been implemented by this government, and we’re not aware of any agency who has received any additional funds in order to offset the costs,” said Ellen Tarshis of the CEO Network, which represents about 80 agencies primarily in the community-living sector.
She said agencies were told by the government as recently as last week that there was no money to pay for the holiday.
“Agencies are struggling,” Tarshis said. “I mean, we’ve been through a lot.”
For Premier Christy Clark to declare Family Day and then force costs such as overtime pay and time off for staff of organizations that work with vulnerable families is “really unacceptable,” said Tarshis, executive director of Community Living Victoria.
Anita Sihota, executive director of Delta Community Living Society, and Fernando Coelho, chief executive officer of posAbilities, expressed similar concerns.
The agencies receive the bulk of their operating money from government and cannot simply close groups homes on a holiday. The agencies will have to pay employees overtime as well as provide an additional day off.
“The budgets that are in place, of course, do not factor the cost of an extra stat,” Coelho said.
“So having to pay that extra stat, which we’re legally obligated to, is going to create hardship to any not-for-profit, in my opinion.”
A short time after Coelho made his comments — and just minutes before the holiday weekend was slated to begin — the Community Social Services Employers’ Association revealed that the government had found $1.5 million to cover the cost of Family Day for the entire social-services sector.
“It not only speaks for the government’s commitment to supporting families, but also to supporting this sector,” said Gentil Mateus, the association’s chief executive officer.
About 65 per cent of the association’s members receive money from the Ministry of Social Development. About 30 per cent are funded through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“The [new] funding will be available for all the members,” Mateus said.
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