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Manitoba announces $120M for front-line workers like cashiers, cooks, bus drivers
WINNIPEG -- The province has announced that it will be distributing $120 million to Manitobans who have been working on the front lines during COVID-19.
Premier Brian Pallister made the Risk Recognition Program announcement on Tuesday morning.
The list of eligible positions includes:
- store shelf stockers
- retail salespersons;
- security guards;
- light-duty cleaners in retail facilities;
- early childhood educators;
- licensed home-based child-care providers;
- family violence shelter workers;
- social workers;
- nurses and nurse practitioners;
- health-care aides;
- community services workers (including personal care homes, home care, public health, mental health and addictions);
- direct service workers for adults and children with disabilities;
- law enforcement (including Winnipeg Police Service, Brandon Police Service and RCMP);
- correctional officers;
- long-distance truck drivers, and;
- bus drivers.
The entire list of eligible positions is on the province's website.
The premier said a group of 15 unions, business community leaders, and critical service providers submitted feedback and eventually voted on a final program.
People will be able to submit an online application starting on June 3 and the application deadline is June 18.
Pallister said this could help around 100,000 workers in the province.
He added that he isn't completely sure how much each person could get but he is guessing around $1,000 each.
"It depends on the signup and really, that is the key," Pallister said, adding if fewer people sign up, those who do register could get more money.
The payment will be available to employees who worked on a part-time and full-time basis from March 20 until May 29 and who worked a minimum of 200 cumulative hours or could have worked but were required to self-isolate because of public health orders.
They also must have a total pre-tax employment income of less than $6,250 during that period and they cannot be enrolled in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
"It's an income-tested benefit, it's designed for middle and lower-income people," said Pallister, adding that the goal is everyone who applies will get money.
MGEU WANTED NO WAGE CRITERIA
Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union said she is happy the province and federal government are working together to recognize those who have been working on the front lines, but this wasn't exactly what she voted for.
"We felt that anyone that has worked through COVID, through the pandemic, should be recognized for it as such. It's not meant to be a salary. It's not meant to be wages. It is a recognition fund. So with that, I very proudly voted that everyone should have a piece of the pie. It didn't matter where you worked or how much money you made," said Gawronsky.
She feels that some people could miss out on the fund because of the wage limit that is in place.
"It is disappointing, I will say, because I feel again, a risk recognition fund recognizes everyone that was at risk during a pandemic."
However, she said she will still support the program as it will be beneficial for many people in the province.
"I will say that any type of additional recognition, when it's in the form of dollars and cents, is definitely welcomed by any Manitoban and I hope they enjoy and do something fun with their money. Spend some time with their families, and, you know, make sure that they realize that is a recognition for working and the hard work that they do, the services they provide to us, the rest of us, in Manitoba."
"During the scary early days where a lot of families were saying stay home, those retailers went into work. Those are the ones who are going to benefit from this. Especially those who are lower-income," said John Graham with the Retail Council of Canada.
Because of a cap on the income criteria, many front line workers won't see the benefit.
"It carves out a lot of our retail grocery workers, especially those that are full-time," said Jeff Traeger, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 832. "Even though there were a lot of part-timers that probably would earn less than that normally, during COVID-19 they were working a lot of additional hours."
The Manitoba Nurses Union also said many of its members are not eligible for the risk payment.
"There is a much higher risk of exposure for anyone who works in health care or on the front lines, and we've pointed that out to the government," said Darlene Jackson, president of the MNU.