VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is launching a new service to ensure essential service workers have access to childcare amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province says that a new online and telephone coordination service is available to parents with children up to five years old who work in public health, social services, law enforcement, first responder or emergency response sectors, and in other jobs that have been defined as essential services.

Parents in these industries can visit the B.C. government’s essential service childcare website here or call 1-888-338-6622 to fill out an essential worker application. 

The application will ask parents which essential service they work in, their child’s age, and which community they need childcare in.

One of 38 childcare resource referral centres across the province will then review the application and refer the applicant to an available licensed childcare space in their community.

The province says that available childcare space is still dependent on the availability of each individual operator. However, essential service workers will be given priority.

The B.C. government says that currently operating licensed childcare providers are also eligible for emergency funding amid the pandemic. The emergency funding offers daycares seven times the usual monthly childcare operating base fund.

According to the province, the priority childcare matching process is a temporary measure that will be active until further notice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“As British Columbians navigate these uncertain times together, parents who can are asked to care for their children at home,” says the ministry of children and family development.

Answers to frequently asked questions about this new childcare matching program can be found here.

A complete list of the province’s “essential services” sectors can be found here.