A two-month trial of an Executive Yuan subsidy program for preschoolers is to be launched today to allow local governments sufficient time to discuss with kindergartens and daycare centers whether to join the program, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday.
Lai made the remark when reporters asked him about the policy on the sidelines of an event at Taipei Expo Park highlighting the nation’s recycling efforts.
Asked about remarks by the Taipei City Government and the Yunlin County Government that their subsidies for parents of preschoolers are greater than those promised by the Cabinet, Lai said that the Executive Yuan would give local governments two months to discuss the issue with operators of private kindergartens and daycare centers to decide whether to continue existing subsidies or participate in the central government’s program.
Childcare facilities can join the new program by signing a contract and becoming “semi-public” institutions, he said.
If the facilities decide by Oct. 1 to participate in the Cabinet’s program, the subsidies that they forwent in the trial — NT$6,000 per child up to two years old — would be retroactively disbursed, he added.
The part of the program that covers children up to two years old and is overseen by the Ministry of Health and Welfare is to go into effect today, Lai said, adding that the part that covers children aged three to five, which is overseen by the Ministry of Education, would not take effect until August next year.
The subsidies would be paid by the Cabinet’s centrally allocated tax revenues for the remainder of this fiscal year and financed through the general budget from next fiscal year, he said.
The same budgeting procedure would apply to subsidies for parents who opt for their preschoolers to remain at home or employ childcare institutions or babysitters that do not have a contract with the government, in which case they would receive NT$2,500 per month, he added.
The Cabinet would respect the decisions of childcare facilities or babysitters that opt out of the program, Lai said, but added that they would receive greater subsidies if they participated.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus on Monday criticized the program, which it called haphazard and said was hurriedly introduced to curry favor with voters ahead of the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 24.
The program is to subsidize private childcare facilities, but the crux of the matter is that there is a shortage of public kindergartens and daycare centers, which the policy fails to address, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said, adding that she suspects the policy would only serve to present good-looking numbers.
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