Learning blocks used in preschools and daycares.

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Over 100 private preschools and daycares have either closed their doors permanently or were forced out of the facilities they once occupied and are now searching for a way forward. That’s according to the president of the Private Childcare Providers group, Nisha Hoyte, who said the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted their industry.

Being forced to close since the epidemic began in T&T, she says the economic fallout is taking a toll, especially since some preschool and daycare owners are unable to access any of the financial assistance services by the Government.

“It’s a legitimate business…I pay taxes…we’re following the rules the government has in place for businesses…we should be afforded some of the grants and loans the other businesses are able to get access to,” Hoyte told Guardian Media in an interview yesterday.

In June, Government announced that $300 million was allocated for soft loans targetted to assist small and medium enterprises being offered through various financial institutions such as First Citizens Bank, NEDCO and credit unions. It was part of its plan to cushion the economic fallout from lockdown measures to protect against the spread of the virus. Educational institutions and daycares have been closed since March.

But according to Hoyte, businesses in their line of work is unable to access these facilities.

“One of the requirements for that (loan offered through First Citizens’ Bank) is that you have to be VAT registered. Our service as childcare providers we can’t register for VAT. It’s not a VAT registered type of organisation. It’s not required of us,” she said.

“So even though we pay taxes and pay taxes and health surcharge- because we’re not VAT registered…we are unable to apply for that loan.”

Additionally, she said many owners were also disqualified from accessing a $20,000 loan through NEDCO because, during the early stages of the pandemic, they would have applied for other forms of assistance.

“One of the restrictions of that (loan) is if you would have applied for a food card or a rental assistance of $3,500 for your home…you cannot apply for that $20,000 grant which would have assisted some of my colleagues with paying staff or paying their rent for their business locations,” she said.

“Because they are not allowed to apply for two grants- which was not advised earlier- they are unable to apply now for that $20,000 grant for their business.”

She has reached out to the Ministry of Education and its Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly to meet with her organisation to discuss a way forward.

“We don’t think that school is going to be able to resume even after this weekend’s briefing and we understand…the Prime Minister has already stated that schools would not be opened before January 2021,” she said.

“(We) just want to be able to get some sort of assistance- not some sort of handout. Just to be able to apply for the grants or loans with certain restrictions being removed for us.”