WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is bringing in more money to help support staff for disability services, child-care, and child welfare services across Manitoba.

Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced the Pandemic Staffing Support Benefit on Wednesday, noting $10 million will be going towards the program.

Stefanson said there are currently 25 agencies funded through the Community Living disABILITY Services that are experiencing active COVID-19 cases, including 34 participants and 67 staff members.

“This rate of spread in our disabilities service sector is creating staffing challenges for many of our agencies,” she said.

  Stefanson added, “I want to assure vulnerable Manitobans and their families that our government is taking action to address these staffing challenges so that our citizens continue to receive quality care.”

The funding will help address staffing challenges due to the pandemic, such as overtime costs, replacement staff, and paying for sick time. The money can also be used for ongoing staffing costs if an early learning and child-care facility or a specific cohort has to close for a short-term isolation period due to a COVID-19 case.

Approximately $6 million will be allocated to the disability sector, $3 million to child care and $1 million to child and family services, based on staffing projections in each sector, Stefanson said.

The funding will be available until March 2021, and centres will need to apply online. Stefanson said the program will be assessed to see if additional funding will be needed.

“We’ll continue to gauge what is needed and necessary to ensure that we provide the necessary supports for those vulnerable Manitobans,” she said.

Stefanson also announced the creation of a COVID-19 rapid response team made up of eight staff members from Manitoba Families. The team will help agencies that assist adults with disabilities in Manitoba.

Agencies that also need help with on-site support can also call 1-866-906-0901. The line is available 24/7 and will connect them with the help needed.