Early childhood learning centres are having trouble making ends meet.

They have to pay out salaries and operating costs at the beginning of the month, but the province doesn't reimburse them with Affordability Grants for up to six weeks.

The grants are part of the federal-provincial agreement aimed at bringing in $10-a-day daycare.

Executive Director of Daydreams Early Learning and Childcare in High River Julia Gwyn-Morris disagrees with statements premier Danielle Smith made earlier this week saying it's the fault of the federal government.

"Is it they signed on because they thought 'Oh well, we're going to get lots of money and we'll figure it out later?' or is it, and I'm not a conspiracy theorist but is it that she wants to break the system and just say it didn't work and then she can blame the federal government," Gwynn-Morris says.

"It is great for parents, and I will never take this away, I've been a big proponent of this early learning and childcare program nationally and we will get there, but we need this government, the UCP to understand they have to put more in or they're going to lose great centres."

She says it's not necessarily a matter of more money but providing the money to the centres up front so they can pay overworked and already underpaid staff without having to go into the red, if that's even an option.

With higher gas prices, Gwyn-Morris says there's plenty of money available.

"When they signed on to this program they capped everything at a three per cent increase on year-to-year, so a five-year program, three per cent increase, that's all we would see and because the deal was signed in 2022 just as we were coming out of COVID, we were capped but a lot of centres had to sign on to new mortgages, food prices were starting to go up and also because of COVID we had lost a lot of educators because the government had put in cohorts, there was a restriction on the number of children that centres could have in each room and it slashed out occupancies by 50 per cent if not more and so a lot of centres had to lay off staff," she explained.

In January of 2023 the government topped up wages but those at the lower level only got $.50 an hour more and while she says it was appreciated, Gwyn-Morris says with inflation at the time of 12 per cent that doesn't really help.

Last month the province boosted wages again three per cent which Gwyn-Morris says comes to $13,000 at Daydreams ELCC and when she crunched the numbers parents are paying in total $25,000 a month, the government amount is $72,000, including the increase so for two payrolls she pays $52,000 for 16 staff then there are remittances to the federal government each month for EI and CPP along with rent of $17,000 so added up that's $95,000 when income is $98,000.

"So where do we increase for wages, where do we replace equipment, toys that break, how do we repair fridges, microwaves, sinks, toilets, buy art supplies, office supplies and insurance, you have to have $2 million insurance package for childcare, we don't have anything left over for field trips, food programs or additional parent events."

She says the Affordability Grant needs to increase to 12 per cent from nine per cent to bring it a little closer to the actual cost of living increase, the affordability grant needs to be paid at the beginning of each month instead of six weeks later and she wants to see the Affordability Grant based on licensed spaces not enrolment.

Daydreams is approved for 82 spaces and has to be staffed at that level but they don't always have that many children in attendance, so they lose out on grant money.