Monday, March 1, 2021

Feds announce $19-billion ‘Safe Restart Agreement’

As the country gradually restarts the economy and takes the initial steps to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a federal investment of more than $19-billion.

Federal officials say the ‘Safe Restart Agreement’ is designed to help provinces and territories safely restart their economies and make the country more resilient to possible future waves of the virus.

“With Canadians doing their part and following public health guidelines, we are able to gradually and safely restart our economy,” the Prime Minister stated in a press release.

“As we continue to deal with the impacts of the virus, we are committed to working with the provinces and territories to provide the support they need to help Canadians make it through this crisis. Together, our priority is to keep Canadians safe and healthy, while building a stronger, more resilient Canada for everyone.”

Federal officials say this investment will help address the key priorities, agreed upon by Canada’s First Ministers, for the safe restart of Canada’s economy over the next six to eight months.

It will support measures to increase testing and contact tracing of the virus to protect Canadians from a future outbreak, and support the capacity of Canadian health care systems, including services for people facing mental health challenges.

It will also assist with the procurement of personal protective equipment to help our essential workers, and in protecting the most vulnerable, like our seniors, Federal officials say.

“The investments announced (on Thgursday) will help ensure a safe restart of our economy over the next six to eight months,” stated Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, in a press release.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked collaboratively with provinces and territories to keep Canadians safe and support the economy, and that is exactly what we will continue to do through a Team Canada approach.”

Federal officials say the agreement will also help get funding quickly to municipalities so they can deliver essential services that Canadians rely on every day, like public transit.

In addition, it includes actions to help Canadian workers during this challenging time, such as ensuring the availability of safe child care to help parents returning to work, and providing income support for people who do not have paid sick leave so all Canadians can stay healthy.

Federal officials say the new federal funding will address seven priority areas:

– Enhanced capacity for testing, contact tracing, and data management and information sharing to mitigate future outbreaks.

– Investments in health care to respond to the pandemic, including support for Canadians experiencing challenges with substance use, mental health, or homelessness.

– Support for vulnerable Canadians – including those in long-term care, home care, and palliative care – who are at risk of more severe cases of COVID-19.

– Funding to secure a reliable source of personal protective equipment, and to recover some of the costs from previous investments made by provincial and territorial governments.

– Support to ensure that safe and sufficient child care spaces are available to support parents’ gradual return to work.

– Joint funding with the provinces and territories to support municipalities on the front lines of restarting the economy, including by putting in place precautions for public spaces and essential services to reduce the spread of the virus, as well as a dedicated stream of funding for public transit.

– A temporary income support program that will provide workers who do not have paid sick leave with access to 10 days of paid sick leave related to COVID-19.

Federal officials say to access the funding, each province and territory will need to outline how they will invest these funds.

New federal investments for the safe restart of our economy are in addition to previous funding provided to provinces and territories and Canadians, as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19, Federal officials added.

This includes:

– The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has helped more than 8-million Canadians pay their bills and put food on the table during the pandemic.

– The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which has kept about 3-million Canadians on the payroll.

– $500-million to the provinces and territories for critical health care system needs and support for mitigation efforts, including access to testing, acquisition of equipment, and enhanced surveillance and monitoring.

– Over $129-million to address health, economic, and transportation needs in the North.

– Support to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses, which has helped over 29,000 small businesses lower rent by 75 per cent.

– Up to $3 billion to help provinces and territories increase wages of low-income essential workers.

– Investments in AgriRecovery and AgriStability programs to support farmers and producers.

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