CHANTELLE Smith was devastated when she had to tell her daughter, Rose, the family could no longer afford to send her to preschool.
Casual high school teacher Ms Smith and her dental prosthetist husband Michael both saw their work dry up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only he received the JobKeeper payment and they could no longer afford to pay the $117 per week for Rose, 5, to attend Cardiff Community Preschool. She withdrew for six weeks.
"It's a domino effect, I can't work if there's no childcare and I can't afford the fees if I'm not working, so it's a challenge," she said.
Ms Smith said the family was elated when centre director James Petrovich called to tell her Rose could access two days of preschool for free.
"I grabbed at it, not only for my opportunity to go back to work, but she was crying, she missed her friends," she said. "This is a really important time because she starts school next year."
NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay visited the preschool on Thursday to call for the state government to extend its program waiving fees for families at 700 state-funded community preschools past the scheduled September end date, through to at least the end of the year.
She warned of an impending economic "cliff" when the end of the program coincides with the end of JobKeeper. Employees of a child care subsidy approved service and sole traders operating a childcare service will cease receiving JobKeeper on July 20.
"We know women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the recession," Ms McKay said.
She said 155,000 women lost their jobs compared to 114,000 men during the last quarter.
"We believe the government has a focus on male employment right now, obviously they've got their big construction projects they're pushing, big infrastructure projects, and that's well and good, but they're doing nothing to support women to get back into work.
"Supporting early childhood education supports both women and men and it allows families to be able to plan to be able to better equip themselves with getting back into the workforce."
Ms McKay said it would cost an extra $20 million to fund free preschool until December.
"Women want to get back to work and this is not too much to ask to enable them to do that."
She said the government also needed to do more in skill development and social infrastructure to support women.
Mr Petrovich said he was pleased to be able to help families, but state government support had not been as straight-forward as it appeared.
He said he wasn't able to receive $87,000 to offer free preschool, because of the size of JobKeeper payments his service received. He followed the peak body's advice - the opposite of his book keeper's - and offered free care, with the hope of being able to "opt back in" to receive support when JobKeeper ends for his sector.
The federal government will end on July 12 its package paying child care services half their pre-COVID revenue. Its new package to be offered July 13 to September 27 involves the reintroduction of the child care subsidy.
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