As students are set to continue to learn virtually for the foreseeable future, Ontario is offering free childcare for eligible frontline workers starting April 19, which includes grocery store employees, healthcare staff, construction workers and more.

“We’ve known that parents in Kenora–Rainy River need access to emergency childcare now and that is why our government has worked with local service boards to offer free childcare starting next Monday,” said Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora–Rainy River.

The service is intended for workers performing critical duties in the continued fight against COVID-19 who cannot work remotely and have elementary school-aged children.

“Frontline workers have supported us throughout this pandemic and we are making sure they have access to the service they need to care for their children, just as they have cared for our communities.”

As well, in order to help protect childcare staff, childcare workers and early childhood educators are now eligible to be vaccinated as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

"Our government is once again stepping up to provide health care and other frontline workers with access to emergency child care as they continue to work around the clock in our fight against COVID-19," said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.

 "Doing so will allow these frontline workers to perform their duties knowing that their children are safe and in good hands."

Those who are eligible include:

- Healthcare workers including but not limited to doctors, nurses, healthcare providers and those who work in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those who distribute or manufacture medical or pharmaceutical supplies.

- Individuals performing work in relation to the administration, distribution or manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.

- Childcare workers, including those staffing the emergency childcare programs.

- Grocery store and pharmacy workers.

- Education staff who are required to attend schools to provide in-person instruction or to support students with special education needs who can’t be accommodated remotely.

- Public safety such as police, fire, paramedics, provincial enforcement, justice, court and correctional system workers.

- Frontline staff in children’s aid societies and residential services.

- Individuals working in developmental services, violence against women services, victims services, anti-human trafficking, and interpreters for those who are deaf or blind.

- Individuals working in a homeless shelter or providing services to homeless persons.

- Food safety inspectors and individuals working in the processing, manufacturing or distribution of food and beverages.

- OPS staff employed in Radiation Protection Services.

- OPS staff performing critical tasks related to environmental monitoring, reporting and laboratory services.

- Certain federal employees including RCMP, Canada Border Services, Canadian Armed Forces, Canada Post.

- Non-municipal water and wastewater workers.

- Power workers.

- Workers involved in the collecting, storing, transporting, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste.

- Employees of a hotel or motel that is acting as an isolation centre, healthcare centre, vaccine clinic or housing essential workers.

- Truck drivers and transit workers.

- Construction workers.

- Any individual whose child was registered in an emergency childcare program delivered by a District Social Service Board between April 6, 2021, and April 16, 2021.

The Kenora District Services Board says the Open Roads Early Learning Centre in Dryden, the FIREFLY Child Care Centre in King George and Kids’ Zone at SMB in Kenora, and Red Lake’s Early Learning Centre will be offering the free childcare.

“An insurmountable amount of gratitude goes to our Early Years team and our community-based licensed child care operators as they again navigate the implementation of emergency child care so quickly,” says Henry Wall, Chief Administrative Officer of the KDSB.

Their dedication to the importance of child care services in this pivotal time speaks to the calibre of individuals we are so fortunate to work with. We will take every precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of children, their families, and child care staff in the locations that remain open in this time of need.”

Staff note they’re working with more communities to provide more spaces soon. Parents are asked to visit kdsb.on.ca to download the fillable form. Once submitted, they will be contacted by the operator in their community if there is space available.